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Canadian Programs Supported By U. S. Charitable Group

WHAT IS HEIFER INTERNATIONAL AND WHO STARTED IT?

Heifer International was founded in the U. S. in 1944 by a Midwestern farmer and Church of the Brethren Christian member named Dan West. West returned from duty as an aid relief worker during the Spanish Civil War, convinced that restoring food security among impoverished families was better than one-time aid.

WHY HEIFERS?

Young cows are a sustained source of milk and a means of “passing on the gift” through donations of female offspring to other families as a perpetual gift of food.

WHERE DOES HEIFER INTERNATIONAL’S FUNDING COME FROM?

It comes from the Heifer Foundation, a U. S. registered non-profit organization working with donors in planned charitable giving through trusts, annuities, wills and bequests to support the work of Heifer International.

DOES HEIFER INTERNATIONAL HAVE POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS?

No. Heifer International has adopted a Faith Heritage Statement that acknowledges Heifer’s Christian roots but points out that Heifer works with people of all faiths.

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT HEIFER INTERNATIONAL’S WORK?

Log on to: www.heifer.org

HOW CAN I CONTACT THE CANADIAN OFFICE TO LEARN MORE?

Heifer International Canada Country Program Office 600-45th Street West Saskatoon, SK. S7L 5W9 306-665-2108 (phone) 306-665-2083 (phone) 306-665-2084 (fax)

“We work at a grassroots level with families and communities and we try to help groups in strategic and practical ways. We try not to be only a once a year type of contact related only to the transfer of funds.”

– RICK BLOCK, CANADIAN PRAIRIES PROGRAM MANAGER FOR HEIFER INTERNATIONAL CANADA

AU. S.-based charitable organization known for supplying livestock to impoverished families in developing countries has been quietly investing millions to support grassroots farm groups in Canada too.

Heifer International Canada, a branch of Heifer International, a U. S. non-profit charitable organization, turned its attention to the plight of Canadian farmers in 2002 after establishing an office in Saskatoon.

Since then some $3.5 million in funding has flowed to more than a dozen programs and projects across Canada to the benefit of thousands of families.

The spectre of emerging food insecurity in Canada, with its disappearing farms and low farm incomes is what steered Heifer International north, says Julie Price, the organization’s regional field co-ordinator for the Prairies.

Heifer International’s head office is based Little Rock, Arkansas.

Price was in Clearwater, Manitoba earlier this month where Heifer’s Canadian project leaders met for a two-day annual meeting.

FOOD SECURITY

Heifer International’s funding, sourced from donor partners through the Heifer Foundation, supports groups that are developing new ways to grow and market food that sustains family farms and communities.

They do a lot more than just give money, says Rick Block, Hei fer Canada’s program manager in the Saskatoon office.

“Heifer is both a funder and a partner,” said Block. “We work at a grassroots level with families and communities and we try to help groups in strategic and practical ways. We try not to be only a once-a-year type of contact related only to the transfer of funds.”

Mani toba has been the biggest benefactor from Heifer International Canada so far. It is home to nine of 14 projects funded on the Prairies. There are two others in B. C. and five in Ontario.

Several projects have received substantial, multi-year funding, which is anywhere from $25,000 to $250,000 for three-to-five year projects. Heifer also supports smaller projects and has approximately 20 ‘mini projects’ receiving grants of $500 to $5,000.

HARVEST MOON LOCAL FOOD INITIATIVE

The Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative based at Clearwater is an example of a large, multi-year project. In 2005, it received $200,000 to start up a regional production and food product distribution business between 10 farm families and two small on-farm food processing businesses.

The Farmers’ Market Association of Manitoba (FMAM) also receives funding through a multi-year grant from Heifer. Other Heifer-funded programs include the urban agriculture programs at Fort Whyte Centre, the Organic Food Council’s farm mentorship program, the Vancouver Community Agriculture Network, and the Muskoday Organic Growers Co-op, a First Nation co-operative producing food for a remote community southeast of Prince Albert, Sask.

In Saskatchewan, the Little Green Thumbs gardener-training program for school children is active in over 40 schools throughout the province. A small group of families in Saskatchewan is also helped by Heifer for their GenAssist project helping beginning farmers and facilitating intergenerational transfers of farms.

To be eligible for funding, a group needs to be cohesive and working well, adds Block. “We don’t work with individuals. We’re looking for well-functioning groups to work with.”

“The suite of projects that we work with all contribute in some way to a stronger local food system,” adds Price. [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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