Canadian Foodgrains Bank staff often refer to growing project acres planted across the country as “the farm,” and last year it covered 16,640 acres.
Projects from P.E.I. to Alberta involving what also adds up to thousands of supporters sowed them to wheat, barley, corn, pulses, soybeans, canola and other grains.
Roughly 5,000 of the Canadian Foodgrain Bank’s farm is in Manitoba, with 35 to 40 projects tending them each year.
The 2017 season proved to be an excellent year production-wise, said Harold Penner, until recently Manitoba’s regional representative and now taking on a new role with the CFB.
“Canola did fantastic at over 60 (bu.), wheat over 80. Especially the cereals did very well,” he said, adding the only downside was among projects that sowed soybeans, which didn’t do quite so well.
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Alberta’s 35 growing projects overall also had a very good year last year, in marked contrast to 2016 when several projects weren’t even able to be harvested due to wet conditions. There were those especially to the north that had weather-related struggles once again, said Terence Barg, Alberta’s CFB northern rep.
“But everybody who had a project this year was able to harvest,” said Barg, adding that overall yields were surprisingly good.
One of the anomalies for 2017 was that several projects harvested in spring what they couldn’t get to under the conditions of the fall of 2016.
“Several projects actually took off two crops (this past) year,” Barg said.
Saskatchewan’s 26 projects were also harvested without any major issues, while supporters also took off crops distributed among Ontario’s 100 projects, and the 16 across the Atlantic provinces.
The one-project one-field approach remains very well supported among the 243 projects logged across the country — and little wonder.
They’re community building and inspirational, said Penner, noting examples like the phenomenal project that took place in Killarney last September.
“Just Google 26 combines,” said Penner. “You’ll see the big harvest they had.”
Even so there is ongoing conversation about how to keep projects going, and as such, ways to support projects are evolving.
“We keep hearing of how hard it is sometimes to keep these projects going,” said Penner.
“We have different approaches now. Whatever works in a community.”
Some projects now opt to host autumn get-togethers with supporters bringing chequebooks, for example. Other groups organize with members dedicating proceeds from their own fields instead of having one central location.
Plus, there are now six Grow Hope projects established, including two in Manitoba where they began, plus two in Ontario and the others in Alberta.
These began in 2015 after Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), as one of the CFB’s members, began looking for new ways to ways to support its own account. It proposed this way of bringing those living in urban areas on to “the farm,” so to speak, by becoming “virtual farmers” as sponsors of acres a farmer agreed to plant.
Manitoba’s first project was held on the farm of Grant and Colleen Dyck in Niverville that year with proceeds of $92,400 from nearly 200 acres of wheat flowing to the CFB.
In 2017 Grow Hope supporters sponsored 400 acres, with Crystal Spring’s Hutterite Colony near Ste. Agathe also putting up acres.
Alberta’s two Grow Projects — one located near Fort Saskatchewan and the other near Carstairs — are well supported too.
“Often urban people want to be involved in the work of the CFB but will say ‘we’re not farmers,’” Barg said. Grow Hope projects not only give urban folk a way to be directly involved, but to learn more about farming and what’s involved in growing food too.
“This is a very tangible way for them to be involved,” he said.
Last year 650 acres were harvested among the half-dozen Grow Hope projects in the three provinces.
As 2018 begins Penner will be working to assist the CFB’s director of resources. One of his aims this year is to visit B.C. where no farm projects currently have been organized. He’s hoping to see what interest can be drummed up there too.
“Whatever people can do and want to do, we’re happy to support,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gordon Janzen, has now taken on the job as Manitoba’s regional representative and said he’s looking forward to meeting more supporters of CFB Growing Projects as the year unfolds.
“I’m just amazed at the number of people supporting the Foodgrains Bank and their generosity,” he said.