Helping hands

Farmers left their own ready-to-harvest crops Aug. 11 to contribute time and machine power to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank project on Randy Redekop’s farm north of Vauxhall, Alta.

With 18 combines and at least that many trucks, the harvest crew made short work of the 145-acre irrigated barley crop.

Proceeds from sale of the grain will be matched 4:1 by the federal government and will be used to assuage hunger in other countries.

“In the last couple years we were able to donate $100,000 when it was all said and done,” said Tim VanderHoek, who was organizing machines and directing traffic amid barley dust on the windless 34 C day.

“This year, I think as long as the yields (are fair) we should be able to hit that $100,000 mark again in donations.”

Yields appeared to be in the 120 to 135 bushel range on the field, which is better than anticipated yields at many other Alberta foodgrains projects where drought has hit hard.

VanderHoek contacted a marketing agency to find buyers for this crop, most of which was shipped to feedlots in nearby Enchant, Scandia and Picture Butte.

Input costs for the project were defrayed through a July pig roast, which attracted about 450 people and raised $26,000, said VanderHoek.

Members of the foodgrains project board seeded, fertilized, sprayed and irrigated the crop, and made joint decisions on timing.

“Even local companies had their agronomists come out once in awhile, just to scout it for us, to take a look,” said VanderHoek.

He and other organizers speak highly of community support for the charitable venture.

“Our big goal is to make it the whole community. We don’t want people saying it’s just a farmer thing. We want it that everybody in the community feels like they’re part of it.

“By supporting that pig roast, they’ve helped support this cause here. The money they give us helps pay our costs. It’s not just a few people who do this. It’s the whole community. I think we’re very blessed in our community with our support.”

Longtime foodgrains project organizer Jan Bennen has seen benefits from foodgrains projects first-hand on visits to Malawi and Zimbabwe.

He saw projects to teach people better farming methods, a process he feels gives the most bang for the bucks donated.

“When people are hungry, don’t give them only food, but teach them how to grow food better for the future,” said Bennen about the foodgrains approach.

Bennen was impressed but not surprised at the farmer turnout for harvest.

“What you give away, you never get poor from,” he said.

Funds from this project haven’t been specifically earmarked, said Alberta regional co-ordinator Andre Visscher.

However, there are hot spots that are likely targets, such as Nepal, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and areas of East Africa.

“In the early 1990s, it was 18 or 19 percent of people did not have enough food. Today it’s around 12 percent. … It’s still 795 million people, so it’s a lot of people, but progress is being made, so that’s some good news,” Visscher said.

There are 31 other CFB growing projects in Alberta this year.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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