Manitoba growing projects pleased with yields despite challenging growing season

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Members of the Pembina growing project in Manitou dedicated this season to Ivan Bird, who was an active member of the project until his passing earlier this year. (Photo: Gordon Janzen)

Over 5,000 acres harvested in support of hungry people around the world

Every year around harvest, George Klassen would put out the call and see who could come help harvest the Pembina growing project field near Manitou.

It isn’t always an easy ask when many area farmers are busy harvesting their own fields.

But every year, Manitou farmer Ivan Bird was there.

“Ivan was a doer,” says Klassen, who coordinates the growing project. “He would drop everything and come help harvest the growing project field no matter what.”

When Ivan passed away this spring, Klassen and other growing project members wanted to honour his commitment to helping hungry people overseas.

“We dedicated the whole year to him,” says Klassen. “Almost his whole family came out to the harvest day, his two boys brought combines, and we had a big banner honouring his life and contribution.”

The hot and dry weather experienced by many farms in Manitou didn’t stop volunteers from coming to help. Six combines, four grains trucks and 11 supporting farm families came to help pitch in, provide support, and honour Ivan.

For Klassen, it’s fitting that the 92 acres of wheat dedicated to Ivan will have a profound impact on the lives of hungry people overseas.

“Somehow the wheat came through as the star this year,” he says. “Despite the dry weather and lack of moisture, it was a bumper crop.”

Many projects pleasantly surprised with yields—despite difficult growing season

Good to decent yields despite challenging weather was a common theme for growing projects across the province, says Manitoba regional representative Gordon Janzen.

“The grain harvests that happened especially in August yielded better than many farmers expected,” he says. “What struck me was that at the time of seeding, a lot of growers were just saying how bone dry it was. Then there was a fortunate amount of rain that came, not a lot, but a timely enough rain for a crop.”

This rang true for the Common Ground growing project’s wheat in the Rosenfeld-Altona area.

“We were very surprised by the wheat yields that many of us got in the area,” says project coordinator Kevin Nickel, noting the project’s 300 acres of wheat yielded 47 bushels an acre.

No matter the yield, Nickel says at the end of the day, what matters is that less people will go hungry.

“We have the equipment, we can generally make the time, and we can leverage the tools at our disposable to make a sizeable contribution to the cause,” he says.

Members of the Arborg and District growing project harvested 75 acres of canola with the help of eight combines in less than one hour in early September. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

A tale of two harvests in Swan River

Further north close to the Saskatchewan border, it was a tale of two harvests for the Fields of Jubilee growing project near Swan River. Project members planted a 105-acre field of wheat and a 90-acre field of canola this year.

“The wheat was great,” says project secretary Wayne Alford. “It was seeded early, they harvested on August 20, and it did 80 bushels per acre. We took it to the elevator, sold it, and everything was just clicking.”

Then the rain came.

“We swathed the canola on September 3 and were thinking we’d get to that before too long, but it just rained and it rained and it rained some more.”

When the canola harvest finally took place on October 12, it barred few similarities to the project’s wheat harvest.

“The canola was tough, we plugged one of the combines and had to get the mechanic from the dealership out to the field to help us get going again,” says Alford with a laugh. “For the wheat harvest everyone was wearing sunscreen and it was hot, but for this harvest we had our insulated coveralls and were freezing to death.”

Despite this, Alford says they were pleased with the canola’s yield of 44 bushels. He was also pleased when they didn’t have any trouble finding a buyer. “There was no shortage of tough canola to buy, but Bunge Harrowby was kind enough to buy ours because they knew it was going toward the Foodgrains Bank,” he says.

Combines are lined up before the HOPE growing project near Arnaud, Manitoba harvested 160 acres of spring wheat in late August. (Photo: Shaylyn McMahon)

Hail and cold doesn’t stop canola crop in Boissevain

The BMW (Boissevain-Morton-Whitewater) growing project also experienced a few challenges with their canola field this year.

The project planted 290 acres in late May. In mid-June, the field was hit by a hailstorm. Thankfully, the hail didn’t damage the roots of the canola, so the crop was able to regrow.

As soon as the crop was standing tall again, a cold spell came through the area. “That delayed harvest for about a month,” says project coordinator Mitch Bohrn. “Then as soon as we had a nice day, we had to get it done.”

“We had some pretty challenging weather overall, but at the end of the day it didn’t seem to affect the yield,” says Bohrn. In fact, Bohrn says he would consider the canola a bumper crop. “We were very happy with it,” he says. “It’ll be a good donation for the Foodgrains Bank.”

Despite challenges, communities come together to support hungry people worldwide

In a year where many Manitoban farmers experienced tough harvest conditions—dry weather, poor rainfall, early snow—it was humbling to see so many come together and support their community growing projects, says Janzen.

“It can be hard for farmers to make time to harvest a growing project field when a good chunk of their own crops are still on the field,” he says. “But once again we see how generous Manitoba agriculture and rural communities are.”

– Shaylyn McMahon, Communications Officer