Growing projects face tough weather, lack of rain

Sunday, February 17, 2019
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The Arborg and District growing project is one of the 210 growing projects that grew a crop together in support of ending hunger through the Foodgrains Bank. The group harvested 75 acres of canola with eight combines in less than an hour in early September. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

Too dry, too hot, too wet and too cold—yet many growers surprised by yields

Mikaela LeMay cares about agriculture.

“For my New Year’s wish, I prayed to God for an opportunity to promote agriculture. When this opportunity came up, I thought ‘this is my chance’,” says the 22-year old agronomist from Trochu, Alberta.

The opportunity LeMay is referring to is that of starting a growing project on 42 acres of land donated by Viterra around its Trochu terminal. Being able to make a difference for hungry people around the world by doing something she cares about—farming—seemed like a good fit.

“I find the fulfillment that you feel when you give to other people is probably 10 times far more powerful than what you could do for yourself,” she says.

The project in Trochu is just one of 190 growing projects that harvested a crop this year to help people around the world experiencing hunger.

It wasn’t an easy growing season, though.

“The hot weather brought on an early harvest, but then for a good five weeks, growers weren’t even able to turn a wheel, as they say, due to the rain and cold,” says Saskatchewan regional representative Rick Block.

In the end though he notes all 27 projects in Saskatchewan were able to harvest their combined 3,000 acres.

The Hudson Bay Rotary growing project is one of those projects that was able to harvest, and had an overall positive year,” says Darryl Reimer. “It ended up actually being quite good, we got 45 bushels an acre, which is a pretty decent canola crop for the year,” he says.

Darryl and his father, Dennis, spearhead the project and provide all the inputs. They invite neighbours to help combine at harvest time.

“This project isn’t just an afterthought and we say ‘Oh we’ll get it seeded at the end’. We pencil it in whenever we’re seeding, it gets seeded at the same time as everything else, it gets sprayed at the same time as the rest of everything. We treat it like our own, but we know it’s going to charity and so that’s just how it works.”

Many Manitoban growers were also surprised at the good yields from the province’s projects, despite the conditions.

Wayne Alford is the secretary for the Fields of Jubilee growing project in Swan River, Manitoba. He is grateful for the support shown by the Swan River community toward the project, noting as examples that the project was given free hail insurance, and a local processing company purchased the low quality canola that was harvested.

“It wasn’t the easiest growing year. It was a tale of two harvests with our two fields here,” he says, noting the project’s wheat field was seeded earlier, and came off the field in August. The canola field, seeded later, wasn’t harvested until mid-October.

Further east in Ontario, the story of trying weather continued.

It was the first year for the Combining for Christ growing project in Owen Sound, supported by the First Christian Reformed Church congregation. The group planted 15 acres of soybeans on land donated by Wilma and Thomas Bergstra.

“It was looking pretty tough for a while—there was no rain for eight weeks. I was a nervous wreck,” says Thomas. “It ended up turning out fairly well, though,” he says.

For project volunteer Joel Neerhoff, the growing season not going as smoothly as hoped brought its own opportunities.

“It brought everyone together and showed the church the need to pray for things like rain,” he says.

Many of the challenges facing farmers are the same around the world 

For Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius, the struggles and frustrations faced by Canadian farmers are a constant reminder of the similar challenges faced by many people around the world.

“I met with small-scale farmers when I visited Foodgrains Bank projects in Ethiopia,” he says. “Those farmers deal with the same kind of challenging weather conditions Canadian farmers do, but without insurance and other supports. A year of poor weather for them can mean the difference between sending kids to school, missing meals, and not being able to purchase medicine when someone is sick.”

Despite such challenges—in Canada and around the world— many people continue to farm for their livelihoods.

Mikaela LeMay, the agronomist from Alberta, sums it up well.

“Harvest time, seeing plants grow throughout the year, knowing what they’ll become—it’s one of the most amazing feelings in the world.”

— Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Officer & Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Coordinator

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