By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The Lethbridge-Coaldale Foodgrains Growing Project has added another successful year to the books.
The Lethbridge-Coaldale Foodgrains project held their annual harvest and barbecue event just north of the Alberta AG Centre in Coaldale on August 15. Hundreds of attendees gathered despite the dry summer heat to enjoy the free ATB barbecue and witness the enormous combines take to the field to harvest this year’s barley crop, with proceeds going toward the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to help fight hunger globally.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary in 2023, and has raised $1.1 billion to fight global hunger and support sustainable farming initiatives around the world.
Over the past 15 years, the Lethbridge-Coaldale chapter alone has raised $2 million. However, the federal government matches donations 4:1, bringing the grand total for the Lethbridge-Coaldale Foodgrains project to over $10.4 million in total contributions.
Alberta’s regional representative for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Ary Vreeken likened the annual harvest event to, “witnessing a miracle.”
“Coaldale tends to draw such a huge crowd on these beautiful harvest celebrations.”
From planning and seeding to harvest, the project is a monumental undertaking and involves donated time resources and hundreds of volunteer hours. Board member of the Lethbridge-Coaldale Foodgrains project, Ed Doenkersgoed said the board is always looking for new volunteers to plan and manage aspects of the project, including the annual harvest barbecue.
Doenkersgoed said “we’re really proud of that ($2 million) figure.”
“Just think about it. This area has managed to put together $10.5 million in aid, which will be used around the world, and not just used but used incredibly efficiently.”
This year was also the first year that the harvest event included a heavy machine “petting zoo”, which offered guests the chance to get a closer look at these massive farm machines, many of which cost over $1 million.
The machine display was just up the road from the project land at the Alberta AG Centre in Coaldale.
Although the harvest marks a symbolic end to the project for the year, the Lethbridge-Coaldale organizing committee was quick to get the ball rolling for the 2024 growing season and announced the organizers were already looking for land for next year. With the rise in commodity prices and farmland, organizers said finding land has become the biggest challenge each year.
“It’s simply a factor of difficulty and challenges for farmers to try to slot in different crops to fit us in. We do pay market rent and we are good stewards of the land. So if you know of anybody anywhere from Readymade to Lethbridge please get in contact,” with the organization at Coaldalelethfoodgrains@gmail.com.
In addition to donating, Doenkersgoed said the final thing that people can do to help is share the story.
“This is a spectacle that is really impressive in terms of what the impact is for people we will likely never meet. What you do when you provide food for someone in their darkest hour is you provide them with hope.”
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank has ranked in the top 10 best charities for four years straight by Charity Intelligence Canada.
Swathing for the Picture Butte and District Foodgrains growing project took place over the weekend, and the harvest and BBQ took place on Aug. 16 at the grow site on RR 210 east of Picture Butte.