“It’s just a Christian response to meet the needs of the hungry.”
BARRY REIMER, CO-CHAIR AND FARMER WI TH THE KILLARNEY GROWI NG PROJECT,
WHO SOWED THE SECOND HALF OF A 120-ACRE FIELD EARMARKED FOR THE CANADIAN FOODGRAINS BANK.
The conditions couldn’t be better,” said Dale Balour, who wanted things to go perfectly on Monday, April 26. “We were scared it was going to be too wet this morning. But it’s fine.”
Balour, general manager of Killarney’s Green Valley Equipment, was standing on the edge of a 120-acre field as the John Deere 1870 air hoe drill and tractor unit his company donated started circling around the headlands of a field just west of Killarney.
The air seeder was placing Hard Red Spring wheat, donated by a local seed merchant, three-quarters of an inch into the ground, using a 12-inch spacing. Last year’s blonde canola stubble stood starkly against the black soil as the zero-till combo made a single pass, adding a blend of phosphate, potash and sulphur to balance the needs of the upcoming crop.
The crop of Kane wheat going into the earthy bed was being sown specifically for the Killarney Growing Project, in support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. The soil testing, the seed, the fertilizer and herbicide, the land, and all the machinery and drivers’ time were donated by local people and local businesses.
“It’s just a Christian response to meet the needs of the hungry,” said Holmfield farmer Barry Reimer, one of the project organizers who volunteered to finish seeding the second half of the field the next morning using his own equipment. And none too soon either, as a week of cool, rainy weather moved in to bring spring seeding operations to a standstill.
The finished crop, estimated to eventually yield around $42,000, will be donated in turn to the CFGB for distribution to food projects around the world.
It is among 30 projects scattered across the province, says Harold Penner, regional co-ordinator for the CFGB. “We have big ones, and little ones, and old ones and new ones. They are spread from Kola to Morden, to Rosenfeld and to Arnaud. The most northerly is Swan River, and most easterly is Blumenort.”
In all, about 4,200 acres of cropland are assigned to projects, about half of which will produce wheat, one-quarter canola, and the rest in other grains.
Last year, the group, which is comprised of a partnership of 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies, had 3,500 acres seeded in the province. Penner said projects come in all shapes and sizes and no offer of help is turned away.
“There are different models. Whatever people can offer is great. And if a community doesn’t get a field that they can use, they may ask for a commitment from a particular farmer to donate a section of their field – whatever the farmer can afford. Five to 10 acres is wonderful.”
The CFGB converts donated crops to cash, and then uses the money to help communities in need. Until early 2008, Canadian food aid was “tied,” said Penner, and 90 per cent of actual food goods had to originate in Canada. But the federal government changed that in 2008, allowing aid groups to buy local in recipient countries, which supports the local economies in addition to feeding the hungry.
“Canadian Foodgrains is made up of 15 church partners – they own the Foodgrains Bank, and they are the operational arm,” said Penner. “We are the bank that they can use for their programs.”
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank has been operating since 1983, and all proceeds are currently matched four to one by the Federal Government’s Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). That means a $1 donation becomes a $5 donation.
The organization works to end world hunger by raising money to feed others in countries such as Haiti, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sudan and the Congo. Approximately 40,683 tonnes of food aid and seeds were delivered overseas to help aid about 2.1 million people last year.
Pastor Raha Muzibao of Bukavu, a city in the African Congo, has been travelling across Canada this spring to talk about his local food aid projects. Foodgrains dollars are helping him help his own people, and he wants Canadians to know how the money they raise is being spent.
“The Canadian government likes his leadership in the Congo,” said Doreen Lundy, who serves as a Pentecostal missionary along with her husband Stan. Lundy met Muzibao in Africa two years ago while working there. “He personally distributes the food in the city of Bukava, and his particular charity is focusing on helping widows and orphans there, because there are so many of them. They are trying to rebuild, because everything has been destroyed by wars in the past 10 years. Genocide in Rwanda carried over into the Congo. With their portion of Foodgrains money, they are buying rice and beans, cooking oil, and cassava flour.”
When Killarney’s crop is eventually harvested in August or September, the wheat will be moved directly from the local Tri-Lake Agri’s elevator onto rail cars for use by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. The money and services donated by the town’s people work like an investment that grows in value – both as a crop and in monetary funds.
“What we are doing is investing in the crop, and growing the crop,” said Roy Arnott, secretary and treasurer for the Killarney Growing Project. “These local dollars can really stretch. This field should yield approximately 6,000 bushels, or 180 tonnes. The support has been fantastic. Quite overwhelming, in fact.”
To support the CFGB, Harold Penner recommends helping with your local project, or one near you, or by sending a donation to the central group to help pay for seeding and harvesting costs.
For more information on Manitoba projects, contact Harold Penner at: (204) 347-5695. To mail donations, send them to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank at Box 767, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3C 2L4. Tax receipts are available for donations. More info is available at