In 1977, before the first Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing projects began, Harv Toews and Bob Lienweber, locally known as Uncle Bob, were part of a group of farmers based in Linden, Alberta, that collected grain for the Mennonite Central Committee.
They brought the grain to be cleaned at the Klassen’s seed cleaning plant, and from there it was brought to the farm of Ed Peters, where bags were filled up to 100 lbs on a scale, sewn shut with a hand sewing machine and loaded by hand into box cars, ready for the long journey ahead.
“People came to bring grain to the Linden siding from all over the place,” said Toews. “We sometimes wondered if these bags would ever make it to their destination.” Around the same time as they were sending this grain, Albert Lobe was in India, unloading bags of grain shipped by Foodgrains Bank for an emergency food distribution. Today, Albert’s daughter-in-law, Julie Derksen, is the supporter relations manager at Foodgrains Bank and made the connection between the two activities as she was speaking with the Linden-Acme group leaders.
“Harv mentioned loading the bags onto the cars and I thought of my father-in-law. He didn’t know whether the grain would arrive safely to India, just as this group didn’t know it would be delivered safely – but it was sent with faith, and received with faith.”
In 2001, Toews made 80 acres of land available for the first growing project in Linden. Three years later, Earl Jenninga took over as coordinator, determined to grow it further.
“In the early days, we made the harvest a focus, with big community events and lots of machinery on the field,” said Jenninga. “However, after some years enthusiasm waned. We switched to hosting a community supper, with each church taking turns to organize it.”
In 2022, the group provided 680 dinners to sit-down guests as well as drive-through visitors at the popular annual event, raising $35,000 of donations from the dinner alone. The land they manage has also grown significantly, after 300 acres of estate land was offered for rent from a local family. Toews credits “tremendous involvement” from farmers in the community, school classes, churches and community groups for their years of success.
This story was originally published in the 2023 Fall edition of Breaking Bread. Download or order your copy here.