Alberta hemp producer James Thiessen is donating the proceeds from the sale of one acre of his hemp crop to the Foodgrains Bank as part of the Two Acre Challenge. (Photo: Submitted)
Donations from sale of one acre of hemp production matched to help small-scale farmers around the world improve crops
For hemp producer James Thiessen, being educated about the challenges and complexities of farming is important.
Thiessen farms in one of the northern-most agricultural communities in the world, in northern Alberta’s Peace River Valley, near La Crete.
The area is remote (about seven to eight hours north of Edmonton), and despite fertile land, the isolated location makes it an area in which farming can be difficult. Occasional erratic weather, including bouts of snow in the middle of summer, don’t help.
For Thiessen, a good understanding of how to capitalize on what makes his region unique is what has made all the difference between land lying dormant or being used for other purposes, and a vibrant agricultural economy.
“A lot of people don’t realize just how viable agriculture here can be,” says Thiessen. “Fifty years ago, for example, it was thought impossible to have an agricultural industry this far north.”
So when Thiessen was asked if he would consider participating in the Two Acre Challenge growing project of Hemp Production Services (HPS), the answer was yes.
Through the Two Acre Challenge, growers designate one acre of their hemp production toward Canadian Foodgrains Bank. For each acre that is donated, Hemp Production Services will provide a matching donation on a 1:1 basis—hence the name Two Acre Challenge.
“At HPS, we believe that innovative farmers have been the backbone to Canadian agriculture, and especially the hemp industry,” says HPS President Gary Meier. “Innovation is also key to improving the agriculture practices of smallholder farmers to improve their food security. We believe that the Foodgrains Bank is a leader in making sure funds are used in ways that stimulate long-term innovation and improved food security among smallholder farmers.”
Proceeds from the Two Acre Challenge are used to provide conservation agriculture training to small-scale farmers in Africa who struggle to grow enough crops to support their families.
Despite their hard work, many small-scale farmers in countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya are unable to provide for their food needs year-round.
They struggle with variable and erratic weather, access to markets, and lack of training and resources to improve their farms.
Through conservation agriculture—a way of farming that emphasizes minimal soil disturbance, soil cover, and crop rotations and associations—they are being trained in sustainably improving their land’s productivity while learning tools to cope with drought and unpredictable weather.
One farmer who has taken conservation agriculture training to heart is Tesfaye Bukulo, of Ethiopia. In 2015, the father of five decided to give conservation agriculture a try. After receiving training and planting his first conservation agriculture crop, he saw positive results: Where he once got almost no crops because of the drought, he grew over 200 kilograms of maize.
For Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius, farmers in Canada standing in solidarity with farmers in other parts of the world is at the heart of the Foodgrains Bank.
“The Two Acre Challenge exemplifies to me the good things that happen when we work together. It’s an opportunity to not only help reduce hunger around the world, but also to connect Canadian farmers with farmers around the world who face many of the same challenges, albeit on a different scale.”
For Thiessen, supporting farmers such as Bukulo in making improvements to their farm is an important part of why he’s involved with the Two Acre Challenge. “There are a lot of challenges in farming—you need a lot of tenacity,” he says, noting that regardless of where one lives, there are enough challenges in making a living from farming—not being able to access training and support shouldn’t be one of them.
“It’s a crying shame that people are hungry due to a lack of education.”
–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Coordinator