PICTURE BUTTE, Alta. — The golden dust of barley harvest settled on Andre Visscher Aug. 21 as he stood in a field and thought of other harvest gold he saw in Ethiopia last year.
The Alberta regional co-ordinator for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank visited recipients of funds from Canadian charitable farm projects.
One couple received two beehives and are able to sell the resulting product.
“I had to eat a plateful of honey. It was a big plate. I ate most of it, but it was hard. I had to eat with my hands, too,” said Visscher, as he recalled the gratitude of the Ethiopian family and their delight at presenting him with the treat.
The beehives, bought with funds from Canadian growing projects, allowed the parents to feed their six children and keep them in school.
On this day, Visscher was watching farmers in the Picture Butte and Iron Springs areas combine a field of two-row barley, haul it away and bale up the straw.
Proceeds from marketing the grain and straw will be matched four to one by the federal government and used for food aid and food security projects in other countries.
This harvest bee was one of 34 foodgrains bank projects in Alberta this year and one of 200 across Canada grown on 4,500 acres.
Last year, such projects allowed the foodgrains bank to provide $44 million in food aid and food security projects in 36 countries.
Leighton Kolk, a farmer from Iron Springs who sits on the local organizing committee with five representatives of four area churches, hopes the project will raise $80,000 to $90,000. It’s the 12th year that a foodgrains project has been organized in this area.
“We did the math once. It was fairly significant. It’s knocking on a million dollars over the 12-year time,” said Kolk.
This year’s crop, which yielded 70 to 90 bushels per acre, was marketed before the combines rolled.
Kolk said the barley was auctioned off in 10-ton lots after the regional 4-H show and sale earlier this year. Most of it was bought by feedlots, which paid more than the $220 per ton market price at the time.
“We sold the straw at the same time, so the straw is going to a bunch of different ranchers around here,” Kolk said.
Visscher said 2012 should be a good year for the charity because of higher commodity prices. He said some of the proceeds will be used in sub-Saharan Africa, where a drought has left 16 million people without sufficient food.
“So far we’ve spent over $10 million in that area alone,” he said.
He wants to go back to Africa in the future to help with food security projects and see how the work of Canadian farmers and an interdenominational charity translates into help for others.
Visscher retains the vivid memory of praying with an Ethiopian family.
“They asked me to pray with them. I prayed the Lord’s Prayer and I got to the part, ‘and give us this day our daily bread.’ I’ve prayed the prayer a hundred times, but I never included the people of Ethiopia in that.
“Now when I pray, I always think, ‘this includes the people of Ethiopia.’ ”