When Darcy Miller was in hospital recovering from surgery last spring, he wasn’t just thinking about getting back to work.
He was thinking about how, once he was well again, he’d find a way to give back for all the care and support he’d received since his diagnosis.
A routine colonoscopy in February 2014 had revealed the 47-year-old father of four had two polyps containing cancerous cells. Further tests showed five out of 11 lymph nodes contained cancer as well.
After surgery he spent months in chemotherapy and radiation therapy and saw how hard his illness was on his wife and their young family of four. But all the while, a plan was taking shape in his mind.
He resolved to grow a crop and donate the proceeds to cancer research after he recovered.
“My dad used to say, ‘when things get tough, do what you do best, and do a good job with it,’” says Miller, a pedigreed seed grower and owner of Miller Agritec Inc.
The Millers operate a fourth-generation farm at the old village site of Fortier east of Oakville.
The cancer research fundraiser immediately stuck a chord among their many business associates, friends and neighbours, he said.
He started pitching the idea last fall and there was “overwhelming and instant” offers to donate land, seed, and crop inputs for the project he’s dubbed ‘Growing Support for CancerCare.’
“As soon as I mentioned this to any of the guys I deal with, without me even asking, they said, ‘what can we do to help?’” he said.
At Elie, Bernie Chabot has offered 90 acres of land for the project. Winkler’s Legend Seeds and Seed Depot at Pilot Mound are donating soybean and wheat for a three-year crop rotation. Arnold Blight with Portage Agri-Sales is donating all the crop inputs. Five different farmers so far have approached them asking how they can help.
“In the end, all we’re providing is the machinery to look after the crop and the manpower to run it, and we’re looking after the crop,” adds Miller.
Behind each and every offer of help is mention of knowing someone who has battled cancer, he said.
“As Arnold (Blight) said to me, ‘we’ve all been touched either directly or indirectly by it.’”
Blight was a friend of Miller’s late father, who died of cancer in 2012. Miller’s grandfather also succumbed. But Darcy is living proof of the advances now being made not only to treat and care for cancer patients, but detect cancer earlier.
It’s all due to the investments made in research, says Miller, which is why proceeds of these crops, which they anticipate will bring in upwards of $150,000 over three years, will go directly towards that cause. A dollar invested in research goes a long way and returns benefits to many, he said.
“As pedigreed seed growers we believe in research.”
The Millers kicked off the Growing Support for CancerCare project earlier this winter, inviting staff from CancerCare Manitoba to visit the Oakville K to Grade 8 school to speak to students.
They’ve had T-shirts and wristbands made bearing Darcy’s motto, ‘I won’t back down.’ A big sign will be erected near Elie later this year.
With so much enthusiasm for the idea unfolding, they aim to host a big harvest event in the fall and invite the public. Their main hope is this project will spark more ideas to support CancerCare Manitoba, says Miller.
That seed is already growing.
“That’s been the overwhelming part of this whole process… how quickly people have stepped up to help,” he said.