Alta. growing project helps feed the hungry

The project near Taber is one of 39 in Alberta this year raising money for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank

TABER, Alta. — Twelve combines and assorted tractors, grain carts and grain trucks made short work of 150 acres of spring wheat Aug. 16 in a field east of Taber.

Proceeds from the irrigated crop will go to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which will use the funds to help feed the hungry in other countries.

The exact amount of those proceeds remains to be determined, but given that all crop inputs and equipment were donated, the net will be similar to the gross.

Jeremy Wind, chair of the Taber project, walked several kilometres on the day of harvest, organizing the combine, grain cart and truck crews.

“Our family has been involved for a long time,” he said just after the combines started their first round.

“I took over organizing the project six years ago and I really enjoy it. It’s a lot of work, especially today, but today makes it all come together. It’s really enjoyable. And if I can do that to help those in need, I’m more than glad to do it.”

Andre Visscher, the southern Alberta representative for the foodgrains bank, said the Taber project is one of 39 projects in the province this year, which is three more than last year.

“Last year was a record,” said Visscher.

“We raised $19 million in Canada. Sixty percent of that was from growing projects. We still get a four to one matching on top of that, up to $25 million from the Canadian government.

“It would be nice if we meet that this year, but we’ll see what the yields are.”

Visscher said several Viterra grain elevators have provided land near their facilities in Stirling, Trochu and Stettler, and groups of farmers in each of those areas are managing the growing projects.

It’s a welcome development.

“Often it’s difficult to find land for growing projects. Its one of the most difficult things,” he said.

Money from the projects is likely to be used in South Sudan, where more than a million people do not have enough food, as well as in Lebanon and Jordan where thousands of Syrian refugees have fled.

“The sad thing is that last year most of the money we spent was in areas because of war. There was hunger because of war,” said Visscher.

The foodgrains bank is also involved in projects to help farmers in other countries increase their productivity. Visscher said he visited Ethiopia this year where foodgrains bank funds are being used to help develop an irrigation system.

“The way food assistance is going is changing,” Visscher said.

“We do more cash projects, cash for work. If there’s food in the (local) market, they prefer cash, and if there’s no food, then they want food,” and the foodgrains bank contributes funds to provide it.

The Alberta economy has suffered in recent years, but Visscher said that has not prevented farmers from charitable efforts.

“People know that we have an obligation to help our neighbours in other countries as well that do not have enough food, and really, if you could see the projects — it changes people’s lives.”

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