Despite a difficult summer and early snowfall, Ponoka’s Foodgrains Project field looks like it may result in an average yield from the 165 acres of wheat.
“What happened is we got snow and it kind of flattened it,” explained Larry Henderson, PR manager for Ponoka branch.
Like all crop fields, planting is done in the spring and the crop is harvested in the fall and sold to buyers. The income from the sale is given to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a non-governmental organization working tirelessly to end world hunger and promote sustainability in the agricultural industry worldwide.
The program is in a partnership with 15 churches and supports three major streams: immediate food relief, improving agriculture and livelihoods, and improving nutrition.
The money goes to food aid as well as supporting industry growth in countries by allowing microloans to help people start up their own businesses. “It’s like a co-op,” Henderson explained.
The harvest took place Monday, Oct. 6 with some donated machinery and combiners willing to lend a hand for the cause; “which is a good thing considering farmers are still doing their own fields,” said Henderson.
“It’s a community effort if you really think about it,” he added.
Along with the farmers, businesses donate fertilizer, seed and machinery, and many donations from the general public are collected. “And then there’s the churches. The churches are quite a support because it benefits their missions,” said Henderson.
With each dollar donated by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for different projects being matched by the federal government’s $4, up to $25 million, “One dollar makes $5 and our cash donations are a big part because they pay for our rent and our expenses. Our donors more than cover our expenses,” said Henderson.
Ponoka’s field, located just south of town along the C and E Trial, supports six church missions and raked in $120,000 last year. “It was just unreal,” said Henderson.
Last year, the Alberta Foodgrains projects raised $43 million for food aid, food security and nutrition in 42 countries.
The organization will mainly target Africa and Southeast Asia this year, says regional co-ordinator Andre Visscher. Last year’s efforts focused on Syria, where millions of people are living in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
“There’s over three million people that fled Syria and the refugee camps are full. They don’t have a place to live and they need food,” said Visscher.
Visscher expects Alberta will aid between 1,500 and 2,000 people this year; there are 35 growing projects in Alberta and 255 across Canada. “It’s a real community builder. People are working together because they feel they need to share. They have it pretty good in Alberta.”