Food project connects city to country

A group of Grow Hope Saskatchewan supporters pose with Olympic gold medalist Cindy Klassen, fifth from left, at the Grow Hope Saskatchewan field just outside of Rosthern, Sask.  |  Jana Al-Sagheer photo

The program allows people to sponsor an acre of farmland, which covers the cost of seed, fuel and other inputs

City folks have an opportunity to get in touch with their farmer sides by sponsoring an acre of farmland in Saskatchewan.

Grow Hope Saskatchewan is a novel approach aimed at attracting more urban donations to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The project is a partnership between the Saskatoon Catholic Diocese, Mennonite Central Committee and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

“It’s a new model to bring awareness to food security issues. It’s a way for us to connect people in the city to the farming process. Myself being a city person, I don’t know a lot about the farming process and so it’s a way for us to be involved in the project,” said Jana Al-Sagheer from MCC.

For a $300 charitable donation, anyone can sponsor an acre of farmland, which covers the cost of seed, fuel and other inputs.

The expectation is that the crop will sell for about $500 per acre, with all proceeds contributed to the Canadian Food Grains Bank.

“Their donation money will be given to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and then that will be matched by the government up to four to one, which means that a $300 sponsorship can turn into as much as $2,500 through this unique project,” she said.

“It’s an easy thing to get on board because you can watch your donation literally grow with the field.”

This year’s Grow Hope field was donated by Nathan and Jeanette Janzen, who farm west of Rosthern, Sask.

The family has been involved with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for more than a decade.

The farmers are growing canola on the 90 acres of land they are using for Grow Hope.

“This is a little bit different model. It gives us a chance to promote agriculture and to do charitable work at the same time,” said Nathan.

“Sometimes, we get caught up in the marketing, in the day-to-day operations and the busyness of it all. This helps remind me that what we’re doing is feeding people and in particular people who don’t really have a lot to eat.”

In August, organizers were encouraged by the number of donators and public who participated in the first Grow Hope field day in Rosthern.

“We had 100 people come out to do the tour and visit the field and it was really well received. I think having it in Rosthern helped too because again it’s that local buy in. The field is really close by, so they can see,” Al-Sagheer said.

The field event was held at the Rosthern Food Bank, which provides about 800 food packages per month.

“We partnered with the Rosthern Food Bank for the event to connect local food security issues to international food security issues,” she said.

As well, Winnipeg speed skater Cindy Klassen, a five-medal winner at the 2006 winter Olympics, was an honourary speaker.

Travellers heading west of Rosthern on Highway 312 can see the Grow Hope Saskatchewan billboard in Janzen’s field.

“We’ve had donors say every time they drive past that land, ‘I think that one of those acres is mine.’ So it kind of is a way for them to connect directly to a project,” said Al-Sagheer.

Most donations to date have come from local residents in the Rosthern area.

“Our first year has been heavily rural slanted because it’s a lot of people in the Rosthern area that are familiar with the farmers themselves. We’ve seen that there are some urban connections, but right out of the gate it seems to be a lot of rural people who are finding ownership in the project,” she said.

“Ideally, next year we would love to attract more farmers to participate in the growing project and donate some acres. That will hopefully open doors to connect with other communities and allow people the opportunity to engage.”

Al-Sagheer said there’s still time to get in on the farming action. Of the 90 acres 20 are still available and the project will be open until Oct. 31.

More information is available by contacting any of the three organizations.

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