Foreign trip reinforces value of foodgrains bank

Farmer says after a trip to the Middle East he was more eager than ever to participate in the growing project

TEMPEST, Alta. — Coaldale, Alta., farmer Ed Donkersgoed has long been a supporter of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, but a trip to Lebanon brought home the true value of the charity.

It has made him even more eager to participate in the Coaldale Lethbridge Community Growing Project for the foodgrains bank, which seeded a quarter section of barley May 11.

“I always felt good about the foodgrains bank but I’d never had the opportunity to see the other side of it. I’d heard the stories but there’s something about experiencing that first-hand that I think impacts you. How can it not? It’s so extreme, the environment, compared to Canadian life. I’m a bigger fan than I was before.”

Donkersgoed and many other volunteers were on hand recently in a field south of Tempest owned by Elaine and Phil Klassen. The equipment, seed and fertilizer were all donated and there will be many more volunteers and donations involved as the crop progresses.

The goal is to raise $100,000 from this crop through sale of the grain and straw, other donations and the four-to-one matching funds provided by the federal government.

Larry Penner, a member of the organizing committee, said the Coaldale Lethbridge group is passionate about its annual project.

“We’re working to raise money to help feed less fortunate people in the world. It is an incredible opportunity to get people in the community to work together,” said Penner.

“We’ve all watched the news in the last couple weeks with the focus on the drought in Sudan (and) Ethiopia. We see the war and the conflict going on in Syria and Iraq. Canadian Foodgrains Bank is involved in all of these locations, in incredible ways.”

The crop seeded May 11 will be auctioned off at an event in July. When it is harvested later this fall, those products will be delivered to the buyers and the money will be given to the CFB for use where needed.

There are about 150 growing projects across Canada this year, said Penner.

This particular project also includes a research element. Crop Production Services supplied two totes of a new variety of semi-dwarf barley called Oreana.

It wants to see how the new pedigreed seed, produced in northern Alberta, performs under irrigation in the south. The rest of the field was seeded to Champion barley.

A hot seeding day with rain in the near forecast should bode well for a good crop start, said Mandy Otrhalek, a crop production adviser and agronomist with CPS.

As the first seeds went into the ground, Donkersgoed said it was a good feeling.

“It’s a good news story in agriculture. There’s just no part of it that you can’t get behind and feel good about as a Canadian. Canadian farmers are maybe the actuating arm of this project but its Canadians that are supporting it,” he said.

“In a small grassroots kind of way, we’re making a difference around the world.”

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