A community growing project in the Swift Current area successfully completed another season in support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
The Grasslands Growing Project consists of the Lone Tree community project just northeast of Swift Current and the Stewart Valley community project.
Andrew Gerbrandt, the project committee coordinator, felt positive about the outcome of this year’s harvest.
“It was a good year overall,” he said.
Both sites benefitted from weather conditions that were more favourable than the dry conditions during the previous two years.
A crop of feed barley was harvested on 152 acres at the Lone Tree project with a yield of 55 bushels per acre.
“It's not too bad of a crop,” he said. “It had a bit of hail damage. So it wasn't quite as good as it could have been, but it was still a good year.”
The hail damage occurred late in the season, just before the crop was harvested on Sept. 3 and 4.
“We got good rains earlier on,” he said. “It got a little hot and dry towards the end, but it was still good.”
Pattison Agriculture’s involvement with the Lone Tree project continued for a second year. The company seeded and sprayed the land, and also did the harvest.
“It works well for getting everything done in a timely manner,” Gerbrandt said about the company’s support at the Lone Tree site.
Other businesses were also involved, for example B&A Petroleum donated fuel again and there was support from various input suppliers in Swift Current.
Community support has always been an important part of the success of the Grasslands Growing Project, starting with landowners John Wright (Lone Tree) and Bruce Pate (Stewart Valley). Other producers and various agricultural businesses have helped with donation of inputs, equipment and labour over the years.
According to Pate there were no significant challenges during the growing season at the Stewart Valley site. A crop of durum wheat was grown on 134 acres and there was a very good yield of 53.5 bushels per acre.
“We were pretty fortunate,” he said. “We got timely rains and it was a good growing season. We didn't have to worry about disease or insects. We're pretty grateful for the year that God provided.”
This year’s crop benefitted from more rain than last year, and there was close to six inches or rain during the growing season.
The crop was harvested on Aug. 19. Travis Olson of Deer Range Farms did the harvesting and Neal Galey hauled the crop to Viterra, where it was sold for $7.56 a bushel.
“It's just basically one farm family, my neighbours, that do all the farming for us,” Pate said. “So we're pretty fortunate.”
Rick Block, the Saskatchewan regional representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, was present at the Stewart Valley site when the crop was harvested.
He appreciates the ongoing support of the Grasslands Growing Project towards the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“Both projects have been going on for some time,” he told the Prairie Post. “Both of those projects do what they do every year. They grow a great crop and area farmers seem to be very excited to participate. I know in Lone Tree in the last few years Pattison has taken a real significant role in terms of doing a lot of the field operations. So definitely that's a great contribution as well from the ag business community.”
He expressed appreciation towards everyone helping to make the Grasslands Growing Project an ongoing success in the Swift Current area.
“Foodgrains projects like Lone Tree and Stewart Valley are headed up by volunteers from the local community and those volunteers connect with local agri business, and some of it's churches, or just simply other businesses,” he said. “So these things run on the back of the volunteer supporters who really hold to that vision of what the Foodgrains Bank is about in terms of being a Christian response to hunger, helping those in parts of the world that are really suffering from food insecurity.”
There are 33 registered Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing projects this year in Saskatchewan. According to Block there is a slow, incremental increase in the number of growing projects in the province.
“There are some projects whose life cycle does come to an end,” he noted. “I think the most encouraging thing is we continue to see one or two new projects every year, which really is great to be able to have. We do hope to see continued growth.”
A funding agreement between the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the Canadian government means financial contributions used for international food assistance projects are matched at a four-to-one level by the federal government.
The COVID-19 pandemic is contributing towards more food insecurity in the world, which gives even more urgency to these growing projects in Saskatchewan and elsewhere in Canada.
“Food insecurity has been exacerbated, and this is a result of essentially lost income,” he said. “Places that are growing food are still growing food, but families may be on the margin for various reasons.”
Families may face difficulties due to a loss of jobs and income, and in certain situations governments do not have emergency relief benefit packages for citizens.
“That means that many more families are going without and are in an indeterminate time period of trying to figure out how do we keep our family fed,” he said. “You layer that over top of hunger that was beginning to rise largely because of conflict. So you have some areas in the world where there has been a significant degree of conflict, of displacement. Sometimes that does happen in concert with just degradation of land and in inability of land to really provide what is needed for families, and so families uproot and are looking for livelihood somewhere. The Foodgrains Bank is placed right in the midst of all of that and we work with local partner organizations. Our emergency food assistance or the long-term training for our smallholder farmers is accomplished through local partnerships.”