A locally based charity is entering into its 21st year of helping meet the growing international need for food security.
Each year, through community involvement, the Central Alberta Foodgrains Charity Growing Project produces a crop on donated or rented land, and then after harvest, the proceeds are donated to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
The funds raised through the project are used to help fight world hunger and are matched at a four to one ratio by the federal government.
Emergency food for people who are hungry as the result of war, drought and international trade policies are assisted, along with providing tools and training for small-scale farmers.
Currently, important donations of food are being sent by the Canadian-based organization to Syrian refugee camps and the countries of Ethiopia and Kenya.
Central Alberta Foodgrains Charity Growing Project Committee Member Doug Maas said the initiative is truly a community-based project.
A field located west of Lacombe has been selected for the 2016 installment of the project.
“We are very pleased to return to the west side of Highway 2,” he said. “We have 120 acres and this year we are going to grow canola.”
Farmers, agri-businesses and community members all contribute to the project.
The local growing project is one of over 200 in Canada for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Around 30 growing projects are based within Alberta.
“It’s really a labour of love,” explained Maas. “We help people all around the world and the project involves urban and rural individuals and businesses. It brings everyone together for a worthwhile cause.”
In conjunction with its international reaches, the growing project is a 100% local operation, starting with the plot of land used to grow the crop. Some years the land is donated. Other years the land is rented.
Once the land is secured, input suppliers are approached to provide seed to start.
In the spring, local farmers donate their time to prepare the soil and then seed.
Afterwards, local agri-businesses are approached to provide fertilizer and other supplies. In the fall, volunteers then swath and combine the crop.
The crop, which varies from canola, barley, spring wheat or winter wheat, is then sold locally at an elevator in Central Alberta.
Last year, the project raised $61,000 and with the matching government dollars, this amounted to $305,000.
In 2015, 10,900 bushels of CPS wheat was harvested from a 130-acre field a few minutes east of Lacombe on Oct. 10th. Over 150 people attended the community barbecue and then watched the nine combines, three grain trucks, antique grain cart, a baler and many helping hands bring in the harvest.
Maas said the community can get involved again this year through the sponsor-an-acre program, or by making a charitable donation.
“The donations and sponsorship go towards crop insurance and crop inputs,” he said.
Additional committee members are being sought to help with the worthwhile cause. Some committee members have been involved for the entire length of the project, an astounding 21 years, organizers say.
The committee sees the canola crop this year having two benefits to the project.
“It has the potential to provide more funds,” noted Maas. “Also, when we swath it in the fall, we can let it lay for a while which helps the seeds darken. It can rain on it unlike wheat or barley.”
As the crop can sit for sometimes up to six weeks, volunteers will not feel the pressure as much to harvest, as their crops must take priority.
Maas said the committee prefers to grow canola, and luck had it with the donated land this year, that the farmer indicated that as per the field rotation, he wanted canola to be grown.
For more information or to participate in the growing project, contact Maas at 403-782-1860. Visit them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/centralalbertafoodgrains/.