By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The Coaldale-Lethbridge Foodgrains Growing Project has added another successful year to the books.
Combines set out to harvest the 160 acres of land yesterday for the annual Coaldale-Lethbridge Foodgrains Growing Project harvest barbecue. The plot of farm land, (donated by Herb and Christine Wall) is just south of the Coaldale RCMP detachment and saw over 300 attendees flock to the field for a celebration of the harvest. The proceeds raised go toward to helping fight global hunger and to help build sustainable farming practices and has impacted people in over 70 countries worldwide. The various growing projects, which now take place occur across western Canada, began in 1983 and have brought in over $1 billion since over the past 39 years.
Despite a few challenging years, the Coaldale-Lethbridge Foodgrains Bank Growing Project has made an enormous impact. One of the harvest barbecue organizers, Deb Chapman said, “we sent over $200,000 in 2021, and we’re hoping this year for even more.”
Ary Vreeken, the Alberta regional representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank added, “there’s a massive community effort to make this happen.”
Land, transportation, equipment, seed, fertilizer, and valuable time are all donated, but each person speaking at the harvest event acknowledged the robust effort of dozens of volunteers in order to pull off the project. The grain, which was seeded earlier this year, is harvested at the end of the season and sold to local farmers.
With sharp increases to land rentals from 2021 to 2022, Vreeken said, “just to give up a piece of land these days, (is remarkable) because you could make a big buck.”
“Last year, even though it was a bad crop here, we had a record income year. We had about $6 million more than we had expected in income. It was not because the weather was so great,” added Vreeken.
Rather it was was due to factors such as a steep increase in commodity prices and community generosity which resulted in a highly successful season. The impact of the growing project is substantial as the federal government matches each dollar up to four to one.
“It’s probably the very best donation you can make because there’s few that can make that kind of duplication happen,” said committee member for the Coaldale-Lethbridge growing project, Ed Donkersgoed.
With substantial planning and preparation required to pull off the project each year, the Coaldale-Lethbridge’s Growing Project committee will begin looking forward and planning for the 2023 harvest in the early spring.
Following the event, Chapman said, “we are uncertain as to yield or dollars (for 2022) but will know in a couple of weeks. In 2021, our group sent $220,000 (and) over $2 million in 15 years of operating.”
Despite some of the profound economic challenges in recent years, generous community donations have continued even despite the economic challenges of recent years.
“One of the things that happened last year, and has happened every other year, is that we raised a significant amount of money through a donation bucket,” said Larry Penner, one of the organizers of the event. These donations are used to further the efforts of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, as well as to offset some of the costs.
Last year’s donation bucket alone brought in $22,000 in additional community donations the day of the harvest.
“We really sincerely, appreciate it and when we look at the news and watch what’s going on in the global world today, this is never more important than it is today. We are so blessed where we are.”