Food­bank Grow Project hap­pily grows…

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

The first har­vest for a Grow Hope Saskatchew­an project on a farm near Swift Cur­rent brought to­gether lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers and those sup­port­ing this ini­tia­tive to re­duce hunger in the world.

Har­vest day on Dan and Carol Siebert’s farm near Main Cen­tre, which is north­east of Swift Cur­rent, took place 115 days af­ter seed­ing on Sept. 16.

Eight com­bines criss-crossed the 125 acres of land to gather a canola crop that av­er­aged 47 bushels to the acre. It was a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence for Dan and Carol to wit­ness the suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion of the in­au­gu­ral year of the Grow Hope project on their farm.

Dan par­tic­i­pated in the har­vest be­hind the steer­ing wheel of a com­bine, and he felt there was a real sense of ex­cite­ment.

“I was start­ing out in the field and a few min­utes later I was driv­ing down a hill com­bin­ing, and on my iPod came the Hal­lelu­jah cho­rus,” he re­called. “I was just on auto steer and my hands went up in the air and I felt such ela­tion, be­cause God has pro­vided such a beau­ti­ful crop and so many com­mu­nity peo­ple helped with the har­vest and com­mu­nity peo­ple also showed up just to show sup­port. It was just ex­hil­a­rat­ing to know that this is some­thing big­ger than our­selves, and some­thing shared by so many peo­ple.”

Carol was ob­serv­ing the move­ment of com­bines from the edge of the land, and she was thank­ful for the sup­port the project re­ceived from the com­mu­nity.

“It was just a real sense of grat­i­tude,” she said. “It al­most brought me to tears to watch these com­bines en­ter the field one af­ter the other, and shar­ing this abun­dant har­vest and this op­por­tu­nity to share with the whole world some­thing that we've been given and that the com­mu­nity has been given as well. It was very, very ex­cit­ing.”

They were pleased to see so many peo­ple present to watch the har­vest­ing of the crop. Some were neigh­bours, but oth­ers came from nearby com­mu­ni­ties such as Her­bert and Swift Cur­rent.

“We ex­pected some to be there,” she said. “We let some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity know that they were wel­come to come, but we were def­i­nitely sur­prised at the amount of peo­ple that all came.”

Some of those present were project sup­port­ers who have al­ready spon­sored acres and wanted to wit­ness the har­vest. Oth­ers are long-time sup­port­ers of the Cana­dian Food­grains Bank (CFGB) and there­fore were in­ter­ested in this Grow Hope project.

“I know we had one cou­ple come around and said they came out and checked on their acre of canola here, and they took a real in­ter­est in that,” she men­tioned.

Dan felt the yield of over 5,800 bushels of canola was the re­sult of a good grow­ing sea­son with suf­fi­cient rain to de­liver a great crop.

“It started out fairly dry and then it started to rain, and re­ally the crop came very well,” he said. “I think we could have bumped up the yield with one more rain later on, but you can't have ev­ery­thing per­fect. It was still very good weather for grow­ing canola. It got quite hot in Au­gust, which may have di­min­ished the crop a lit­tle bit, but by then most of the canola had done its flow­er­ing and the seeds were set.”

They felt it was a good de­ci­sion to make their land avail­able to the Grow Hope Saskatchew­an ini­tia­tive and their in­ten­tion is to do it again next year.

“We are semi-re­tired now and we have other land that we’re re­ceiv­ing in­come from,” he said. “So to share with other peo­ple some of the bless­ings that God has given us is just a nat­u­ral thing to do.”

The Sieberts pro­vided the land and the farm­ing was done by neigh­bour­ing farm­ers Chaun and Sara Holfeld and Wes and Kim Redekop.

“They are very much into this and they sup­port it strongly,” Dan said. “They have noth­ing to gain by this, but they gain the joy of giv­ing.”

Other neigh­bours helped out with com­bin­ing and truck­ing during the har­vest. Richard­son Pi­o­neer at Reed Lake sup­ported the project with some of the agro-chem­i­cal in­puts, and the canola was also sold to this el­e­va­tor.

The Sieberts have been fa­mil­iar with the work of the CFGB for many years and they have been ac­tively in­volved with the Men­non­ite Cen­tral Com­mit­tee (MCC). Dan has seen the need of peo­ple during vis­its to sev­eral coun­tries. He has wit­nessed the ben­e­fits of emer­gency food re­lief ef­forts and con­ser­va­tion agri­cul­ture prac­tices that help peo­ple to grow more food through im­proved farm­ing prac­tices.

Funds raised through the project on their land will sup­port those needs and help to re­duce hunger in the world. There are other CFGB grow­ing projects in south­ern Saskatchew­an, but their farm near Main Cen­tre is the first lo­ca­tion for a Grow Hope project in the re­gion.

Grow Hope Saskatchew­an is a part­ner­ship be­tween MCC, the Saska­toon Catholic Dio­cese, and the CFGB. Farm­ers do­nate their land and agree to grow a crop, while in­di­vid­u­als can be­come in­volved through the spon­sor­ship of acres. It costs $300 per acre to grow a crop, which in­cludes the cost of seed, fuel and other in­puts.

The pro­ceeds from the sale of a crop are do­nated to CFGB. The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment will match these do­na­tions up to 4:1, which means that an ini­tial do­na­tion of $300 can even­tu­ally turn into as much as $2,500 of sup­port for food se­cu­rity projects in var­i­ous coun­tries around the world.

Rick Block, the CFGB re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Saskatchew­an, was im­pressed with the num­ber of peo­ple present at the har­vest.

“That's what the Food­grains Bank is known for,” he told the Prairie Post. “We work to­gether to help make a dif­fer­ence in re­la­tion to hunger world­wide. So I was feel­ing elated in that sense. I was also feel­ing re­ally en­cour­aged for Dan and Carol Siebert. … They wanted to see some of their land uti­lized in this way, and I was re­ally en­cour­aged to see all the peo­ple come out to es­sen­tially say yes, Dan and Carol, we sup­port you in this vi­sion of what you're do­ing.”

He added that it was ex­cit­ing to see the suc­cess of the Grow Hope ini­tia­tive in Saskatchew­an in only a few years, which he felt will con­tinue in the fu­ture. The COVID-19 pan­demic is con­tribut­ing to­wards more food in­se­cu­rity in the world and grow­ing projects are there­fore be­com­ing even more cru­cial.

“The Food­grains Bank was made for times like these,” he said. “Our structure is such that we ben­e­fit from this large broad base of sup­port of Cana­di­ans and with the in­cred­i­ble help from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment a lot of work and sig­nif­i­cant im­pact can be done. … So there is a very spe­cific and sig­nif­i­cant role for the Food­grains Bank, it's mem­bers agen­cies and it's lo­cal part­ners on the ground to do it's work.”

The Grow Hope project is now in its third year in Saskatchew­an. The land avail­able to be spon­sored in­creased from 160 acres in 2018 to 305 acres in 2020. In ad­di­tion to the Siebert land near Main Cen­tre, there are also land pro­vided by three other fam­i­lies at Good­soil, Bruno, and Ros­th­ern.

Rick Guen­ther, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and donor re­la­tions di­rec­tor for MCC Saskatchew­an, said there has been a good re­sponse to this ini­tia­tive. MCC orig­i­nally started the Grow Hope ini­tia­tive about five years ago in Man­i­toba.

“What's unique about the Saskatchew­an Grow Hope model is that we also tried to cre­ate it as an ec­u­meni­cal model, in other words in­volve dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions all at the same time,” he said.

A dis­tinc­tive aspect of the Grow Hope for­mat is the at­tempt to cre­ate con­nec­tions be­tween farm­ers and non-farm­ers.

“Where a lot of the grow­ing projects are often done by farm­ers and re­lies on them alone to bring them to fruition, this tries to in­clude non-farm­ers as well,” he ex­plained.

“And so we love the model in that it tries to bring peo­ple to­gether from ur­ban and ru­ral.”

Many of the acres for the Grow Hope projects are still spon­sored by ru­ral residents, be­cause they tend to be more fa­mil­iar with CFGB grow­ing projects. But Guen­ther is en­cour­aged by the grow­ing in­ter­est from ur­ban residents in the Grow Hope ini­tia­tive.

“Slowly and surely we are ex­pand­ing the num­ber of donors that are spon­sor­ing acres and that to me is re­ally ex­cit­ing,” he said.

There are still acres avail­able to spon­sor from this year’s har­vest at the four Grow Hope sites in Saskatchew­an.

“The pre­vi­ous two years we did have a fair bit of do­na­tions come in right around har­vest and af­ter har­vest, and I don't an­tic­i­pate any rea­son why that wouldn't hap­pen again,” he said. “The op­por­tu­nity to spon­sor acres ends at Oct. 31 of ev­ery year. … So we'll see what we get at the end of the year. It would be great to see all 305 acres spon­sored.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about Grow Hope Saskatchew­an and to spon­sor an acre, go to

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg/Prairie Post

Com­bines gather a crop of canola for the Grow Hope project on the land of Dan and Carol Siebert near Main Cen­tre.

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg/Prairie Post

Peo­ple watch the com­bines at work on the land of Dan and Carol Siebert near Main Cen­tre

Rick Block, the CFGB re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Saskatchew­an, speaks about the work of his or­ga­ni­za­tion af­ter the con­clu­sion of the Grow Hope har­vest, Stand­ing next to him are Rick Guen­ther, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and donor re­la­tions di­rec­tor for MCC Saskatchew­an, and landowner Dan Siebert.

A load of canola is trans­ferred from a grain cart to a truck during the Grow Hope har­vest near Main Cen­tre

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