Cecil Ashworth (right) says he knew if he asked Ryan Hansen (left) to take over the Lake Alma / Souris Valley growing project, Ryan would “run it like it’s his own farm.” (Photo: Amanda Thorsteinsson)
Farm families are used to hearing about the importance of succession planning for their operation. Having a plan in place to transfer ownership of the farm when one generation is ready to retire—or at least step back from the operation—makes good business sense.
But what about growing projects?
Cecil Ashworth has chaired the Lake Alma / Souris Valley growing project near Oungre, Saskatchewan, since its beginning almost 20 years ago.
For Cecil, a member of Beaubier Pentecostal Church, being involved in the growing project is part of how he chooses to live out his faith.
“It’s a good thing to do, and it needs to get done,” he says, recalling loading grain onto rail cars in the early days of the Foodgrains Bank, when grain was still shipped overseas.
However, Cecil, who is 67, understands the work of managing the growing project isn’t something he will be able to do forever.
“I started taking a step back from the farm about 10 years ago,” he says, noting that over the last couple of years, he’d started thinking about what could be next for the project.
“Before, if there was something that needed to get done with the project, I could do it myself,” says Cecil.
That’s getting harder, though.
He knew it was important to find the right person to carry on with managing the project, which has been a project of Beaubier Pentecostal Church for many years, with good support from the surrounding community.
Since the beginning, the growing project has raised $822, 380, designated to the Foodgrains Bank account of Emergency Relief and Development Overseas (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada), where it is used to respond to hunger around the world.
“Anyone can write a cheque,” says Cecil. “Being part of a growing project is different—it has an impact that’s different because it’s done visually, in the community. It’s a very effective way to show your Christianity.”
Cecil wasn’t ready to hand over the growing project reins to just anyone, though.
The person Cecil shoulder-tapped to lead the project was Ryan Hansen, 27, a fellow member at Beaubier Pentecostal.
Ryan grew up farming alongside his dad, Brent, also a member of the growing project. Now he owns an aerial application business.
“I knew if I chose Ryan, things would get done,” says Cecil.
“A week can make a big difference for a growing project,” he says, explaining that many farmers might wait until their own field was finished seeding or harvesting before starting on the Foodgrains field.
“As a Christian, I knew Ryan would take the project on not as an after-thought, but as a priority,” he says. “I knew he’d run it like it’s his own farm. He would care for it, and keep the yield up.”
Ryan took some time to think about whether leading the growing project was something he could commit to. Eventually, he agreed.
Similarly, to Cecil, Ryan’s reasons for giving of his time and energy to the growing project stem from his Christian faith.
“In the past few years, I’ve really come to realize that we have so much here in Canada,” he says.
“We can spend $20 like it’s nothing, for example.”
Ryan, like many farmers who donate their time, energy, equipment and more into feeding the hungry, is humble about the commitment needed for a growing project.
“We get so much here in Canada, and this is a little thing we can do,” he says.
Rick Block, regional representative for the Foodgrains Bank in Saskatchewan, is grateful for Cecil’s foresight. “There are a lot of dedicated growing project leaders here in this province,” he says.
“Many see their involvement as a part of who they are, meaning they don’t ever want to stop, and that’s great.”
“But no one’s here forever, and planning ahead before there’s a crisis or before we run out of energy is a great succession plan,” he says.
“It’s great to see Cecil and Ryan setting an example in Beaubier,” he says.
–Amanda Thorsteinsson, communications coordinator