By Lethbridge Herald on August 21, 2020.
It was a bountiful harvest for the Coaldale-Lethbridge Community Growing Project to support the work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank worldwide.
Dozens of local volunteers, farmers and businesses came together on Friday to bring this year’s barley crop off, but it wasn’t business as usual, confirmed Community Growing Project organizing committee member Ed Donkersgoed.
“We are thrilled to be part of another successful growing project,” he said. “This is the harvest day celebration event. As always, we’ve got a huge group of volunteers to help us get this crop in and get it to market. This year with all that has been going on both locally and globally it seems in spite of, or maybe because of, this COVID-19 pandemic that people are making a very direct choice to help us out.”
One of the uncertainties project organizers faced earlier this year, said Donkersgoed, was the financial challenges impacting local cattle feeders, who are main customers for the barley the Community Growing Project grows. Feedlots had difficulty selling their product to the meat packers, many of whom temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks earlier this spring, thereby backlogging the entire system. Thankfully, said Donkersgoed, local cattle feeders came through for Canadian Foodgrains Bank again this year despite facing these challenges.
“In spite of that, they have stepped up and said, ‘We will continue to buy the product.’ And they have done just that — not only paying the market price, but in many cases paying a premium as a donation,” he said.
Last year the project raised $173,000, which was eventually matched four to one by the federal government, to support the Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s work of feeding the hungry overseas. Donkersgoed felt the odds were good to match that total this year.
“This year we are hoping to match that, or maybe do just a little bit better,” he confirmed. “The crop actually looks phenomenal this year.”
Another challenge the Coaldale-Lethbridge Community Growing Project faced this year was having to accept the necessity of cancelling its popular annual harvest day barbecue.
“We typically make a very splashy event out of the barbecue,” confirmed Donkersgoed, “and unfortunately we couldn’t do that because of provincial regulations and a mind for wanting to be safe and keep our supporters safe. So we have had to do a very modified harvest day event today.”
The annual barbecue usually raises about $20,000 on its own to help the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Donkersgoed hoped the public might be willing to go online and donate to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and designate their donation to the Coaldale-Lethbridge Community Growing Project at donate.foodgrainsbank.ca to help make up the difference.
Donkersgoed said no one in his organization ever has to twist anyone’s arm to get involved, and there are always many willing hands to help out with the Community Growing Project.
“It is easy to get excited to participate in this project,” he said. “There is just so much support. We don’t have to sell this. We just tell a little bit of a story and farmers and businesses step up, and they write cheques and donate product.”
Canadian Foodgrains Bank Alberta provincial co-ordinator Andre Visscher thanked all the local volunteers and organizers for their magnificent effort again this year even when challenged by so many uncertainties due to COVID-19.
“We can use this money to end hunger in this world,” he stated. “That is our goal: ending hunger. There are still too many people that do not have enough food. And the demand for food is rising. A lot of people worldwide lost their jobs (due to COVID), the same as in Canada. They don’t have a lot of savings and they cannot provide food for their family; so the need is greater.”
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank operates in over 30 countries providing immediate food help and longer-term farmer-training assistance. There are over 200 community growing projects across Canada to support these efforts.
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