Growing Projects Celebrate a Successful 2017

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Grow Hope Manitoba supporters gather at Artel Farms near Niverville to celebrate a successful year, which saw more than 400 acres of canola and wheat sponsored. (Photo:Bethany Daman)

At Canadian Foodgrains Bank, we like to talk about the Foodgrains Bank “farm”—the thousands of acres across Canada, from PEI to B.C, that are planted by community growing projects to raise funds for the work of ending global hunger.

In 2017, our “farm” was almost 16,000 acres of land that grew crops such as wheat, barley, corn, pulses, soybeans, canola and other grains.

The proceeds from the sale of the crops planted on this “farm” will make a difference in the lives of people in great need, and also help people learn to grow more food in the longer term.

Here’s a snap-shot of the “farm” this past growing season.

Alberta In Alberta, it wasn’t an easy growing season for many farmers, but Nelie Rylaarsdam of the Bear Lake Growing Project north of Grande Prairie, Alberta, isn’t complaining.

“It was a tough growing season,” explains Rylaarsdam, noting the project had wanted to plant wheat, but the wet conditions meant a last-minute switch to barley. “It was too wet, and there was hail, so we are pleased with what we got.”

The project planted 158 acres of barley this year. As of press time, the crop hasn’t been sold yet, but Rylaarsdam estimates the yield to be between 65 and 70 bushels an acre, meaning a decent yield.

On harvest day, the weather was perfect, though. “It was a gorgeous day, nice and warm,” says Rylaarsdam. “About 75 people came out.”

Further south, the Newell Growing Project also had a positive year. “This was our first year growing wheat,” says project coordinator Fred Preston. “Wheat is a higher value crop. We connected with a reasonable price and a very good yield,” he says, noting he’s pleased with the harvest from the group’s 100 acres.

“Growing conditions in Alberta were really all over the map,” says Terence Barg, regional representative for northern Alberta.

“On one hand, there were several projects that either weren’t able to seed or to harvest this year. There were even a couple projects that have now been rained or hailed out two years in a row.”

The St Paul’s Presbyterian Church Community Growing Project in Eckville, Alberta, however, managed to bring in two crops—last year’s canola crop that spent the winter on the field, as well as a barley crop.

“You never know when there will be a little miracle,” says Barg. “They got a good price on both crops.”

The Taber & District growing project in Alberta harvested 155 acres of wheat in just under two hours using 12 combines, three grain carts and seven trucks. The crop yielded 100 bushels per acre. (Photo:Jeremy Wind)

Ontario In Ontario, home to over 100 community growing projects spread across the province, regional representative Dave Epp knows all about looking for the positive bits.

“I’ve heard growing project leaders saying that they’re really not looking forward to harvest time—it’s been too wet! But when they go to harvest, they’re amazed at what they’re actually able to bring in.”

“And of course—there are the little miracles,” he adds. “A wagon can show up on harvest day to collect the crop, and it will already be half full. Or a longtime growing project farmer will look at this years’ project field and will offer to harvest one of his own fields in lieu of the project field because the yield would be higher.”

Atlantic Canada A total of 16 projects across PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick seeded a crop in 2017.

Ian MacHattie is the regional representative for Nova Scotia. For him, a provincial highlight was the creation of two new growing projects.

“We had two of our ongoing projects split off and start two new projects, bringing us up from three to five,” he says. “We had a total of 100 acres of corn donated.”

In Saskatchewan, all 26 projects were harvested without difficulties, and many supporters came out to cheer the projects on and lend their support.

Saskatchewan Back west, Saskatchewan had a successful year. “All 26 projects were harvested without difficulties, and many supporters came out to cheer the projects on and lend their support,” says Rick Block, regional representative for Saskatchewan.

“It was a great feeling to see the Hudson Bay Rotary project in eastern Saskatchewan bring in a strong wheat crop—last year, it was so wet they weren’t able to harvest at all. There was a good feeling in the air this harvest day!”

The Naicam-Spalding growing project in Saskatchewan harvested 146 acres of spring wheat, which ended up yielding 91 bushels per acre to help end global hunger.

Manitoba Manitoba also had a good year, according to regional representative Harold Penner. “There were some super harvests, and some average to maybe some below average harvests. All in all, I’d consider that a good year.”

“A highlight for me was seeing 26 combines come out on harvest day in Killarney. And it was awesome seeing the community support as well. There was a huge crowd, over 200 people came out.”

For Tony Peters, treasurer for the FOCUS project in Portage la Prairie and surrounding regions,  seeing different groups of Manitobans come together in support of people experiencing hunger is what growing projects are all about.

“When you’re hungry, you don’t ask what church someone goes to or where they’re from – you’re hungry and that’s all you think about,” he says. “So that’s what we think about – helping hungry people.”

Other project highlights from across the country:

  • A partnership with Viterra, a leading marketer and handler of grains, oilseeds and pulses, that saw 42 acres of land belonging to Viterra in Balgonie, Saskatchewan and Stettler, Alberta donated to the Foodgrains Bank and farmed by volunteer farmers.
  • 90 acres of soybeans farmed by volunteer producer Gaylord Mierau in Saskatchewan on land belonging to Ag in Motion, with support from Crop Production Services.
  • Six Grow Hope projects in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba received enough support from urban growing projects to sponsor 650 acres of crops.

–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Coordinator