With much of the grain from southern Alberta Foodgrains projects in the bin, things are shaping up to be one of the best year thus far for the non-profit organization that grows crops each year for aid in impoverished countries around the world.
“So far, the crops in Medicine Hat, Caldwell, and Taber have been excellent. Coaldale had its highest yields ever,” said Andre Visscher, Foodgrains Bank regional representative for southern Alberta.
The Coaldale-Lethbridge growing project which always grows barley saw a yield of 144 bushels per acre on 158 acres planted on irrigated land. The bountiful crop reaped 56 pounds of barley per bushel.
“They always, always grow barley. There are lots of feedlots in the area who are buying from us and they are great supporters,” said Visscher. “Plus, barley is harvested earlier so it’s easier for the volunteers to help before they get to their own fields.”
Ed Donkersgoed, one of the organizers for the Coaldale project said this year’s crop went well above his expectations.
“Most of us are veterans around the table and this went beyond any of our expectations. We have a lot of good guys and land,” said Donkersgoed. “We’ve always believed this project is blessed because it always seems to do quite well.”
The barley crop goes to area feedlots so knowing it is pre-sold makes thing a little easier for the volunteers.
“We know where every truckload is going. Barley is a very marketable product for us here,” said Donkersgoed.
Wheat was planted at the Taber growing project and it too yielded good results at 94 bushels per acre.
“They had 16 combines going and it took them just over an hour. The volunteers are really amazing,” said Visscher.
The Medicine Hat Foodgrains growing project, just south of the City, reaped 2,375 bushels of wheat, raising approximately $14,000 for the Canadian Foodgrains bank.
Despite the tremendous crops grown throughout the region this year, the Canadian Foodgrains volunteers have had their share of challenges.
“The crops have been excellent, but it’s been a different kind of year because of COVID. It has made it more challenging. At Coaldale, people were just watching from the road,” said Visscher.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank workers oversees have seen people who were facing poverty prior to the pandemic now experiencing challenges such as job losses, intensifying the already extreme hunger situations.
“We’ve had to change the programming. Now, we are delivering food to the people’s homes. And, we’ve had to make sure we have masks and protective equipment for our workers. The number of hungry people is rising, there’s loss of jobs just like here,” said Visscher, adding that the federal government has increased its funding which is typically a four to one ratio.
“The Canadian government has given $2.3 million over and above the $25 million we normally get to help,” he said.
Foodgrains Canada already had workers on the ground in Beirut assisting refugees from Syria when a massive explosion occurred on Aug. 4. Grain silos at the port where the explosion took place held 85 percent of the country’s grain stocks were extensively damaged.
“We were already there helping the refugees from Syria and have now expanded it and have been helping with humanitarian efforts. Last week, we delivered 6,000 meals,” said Visscher.
Donkersgoed and his wife joined a small group of people in traveling to Lebananon in 2017 to experience the work being done by Foodgrains workers in helping the Syrian refugees.
“We went over as a learning opportunity to see how the funds were being used and to see what the other side looked like,” he said.
“The Syrian crisis was entering its seventh year then and it was overwhelming to see. When I look back to when that whole region was in horrific condition; well, it’s a whole lot worse now. It’s really overwhelming and it cements the need for us to give. It makes me feel really good about this organization. By providing food, we’re proving hope.”
Here at home, it is because of the numerous volunteers and businesses that support the Foodgrains projects each and every year that the Canadian Foodgrains Bank can continue to make a difference in battling hunger and poverty around the world.
“Our support from our volunteers and agri-businesses is what keeps us going strong and we are very thankful,” said Visscher.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a partnership of 15 Canadian churches and churches that work towards ending global hunger. In 2019-20, the organization helped over 800,000 people in 34 countries. The organization is also a member of the Humanitarian Coalition.