Crossborders growing project harvests 275 acres of wheat for Foodgrains Bank

The Crossborders Growing Project harvested 275 acres of land just east of Kola, Manitoba. 

The 275 acres yielded 19,796 bushels of wheat. It took the volunteers just over two hours to complete the task. 

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Due to the new normal, there were not as many people as usual.

“We weren’t as many people as other times. I think COVID-19 had a part to do with that,” said Gord Janzen, Regional Foodgrains Bank co-ordinator for Manitoba.

Although the turnout was smaller than in the past, those who attended did seem to be in good spirits.

“It was really good for many reasons. The yield of the crop, the way that the community came together around this specific project and just the fact that the community is looking beyond themselves, which is always encouraging to me,” said Janzen. 

The Crossborders Growing Project has been a tradition in the Kola community for over a decade.

“I think it has now been over ten years and I think it is a big effort for these communities. They are giving their land, which they could have kept for their own harvest, but no, they are looking beyond themselves,” said Janzen.

Crossborders Growing Project is one of 39 growing projects in Manitoba that support the Foodgrains Bank. Any money that is made from the crop is matched 4:1 by the federal government. 

“The Canadian government matches donations on a four to one basis for our food assistance programs,” said Janzen. 

“It really makes a difference.”

Don Neufeld, project co-ordinator of the Crossborder Project, is as satisfied with this year’s crop as Janzen.

“It went very well. We had 10 combines, nine highway tractors and four grain carts,” said Neufeld.

“We will haul it (the wheat) to the elevator and they pay us and then we give that money to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and then the federal government matches it four to one,” said Neufeld. 

This matching system is capped at seven million dollars.

Neufeld has been active in the Crossborders growing project for over 30 years. 

“My dad was the project co-ordinator before he passed away. He was the PR guy. I was just the grunt labourer for many years, but then when he passed, I inherited everything. So, now I do the grunt labour and the organizational part,” said Neufeld. 

“I love it. I am actually privileged and blessed to be able to do it. I get far more out of it than I actually put into it.”

The main gathering on harvest day is usually the lunch that is served to the volunteers. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this tradition had to change a bit.

“We did have a lunch. It was prepackaged. The sponsors (Farm Credit Corporation) could not serve it like they usually do, but that did not stop the community getting together,” said Neufeld.

In the 30 years that Neufeld has been working with the Crossborders project, it has seen some changes.

“When my dad and uncle first became involved with the Foodgrains Bank, we actually had a piece of land just on the Manitoba and Saskatchewan border. We had an 88 acre piece there and then we had an actual piece in Saskatchewan, that is why it is called the Crossborders, because we actually farmed those two pieces together. Over the years it actually expanded,” said Neufeld.  

Hellen Koop, who owned the 275 acres, approached Neufeld.

“She came to me and asked if we would want to take her half section and break it up and farm it. We rented it from her for 10 or 12 years, and then when she passed along, her family came to me and we bought it,” said Neufeld. 

The growing project now owns the land and there is no need to try and find land to use every year.

“That is the longest we have been in one spot. In the beginning we moved from place to place whereever we could pick up land. For the last 15 years it has been at this location,” said Neufeld.  

Neufeld is very proud to be a part of the Foodgrains Bank and he is not at all surprised that they secured additional funding for projects related to COVID-19.

“Of all the organizations that I have been involved in, they are the most efficient at administration to actual dollars on the ground. Only five per cent of the money raised by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank goes towards administration,” said Neufeld.

Additional government funding

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank has received additional funding to respond to global hunger caused by COVID-19.

The $2.3 million from the Canadian government will be used to support small-scale farmers in Africa and benefit approximately 100,000 people. The fund is being made available on a 3:1 matching basis, which sees the Foodgrains Bank contributing over $700,000 for a total response of $3 million.

 World Food Programme warns we may face the worst humanitarian food crisis since the Second World War due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so institutions like the Foodgrains Bank and the support they give is crucial. 

 “The small-scale farmers we work with in developing countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 prevention methods,” said Jim Cornelius, Foodgrains Bank executive director. 

“Drastic efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus have disrupted livelihoods, farm production and food supply chains. For small-scale farmers who rely on the crops they grow for food and income, these disruptions can mean the difference between having food on their plates or not,” he adds.

 The new grant will be used for projects in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya. Program activities will begin in 2020 and continue into 2021 as part of a long-term response. 

Based on consultations with the Foodgrains Bank’s local African partners, the new grant will focus on providing agricultural support services to help farmers increase their harvest and supporting community savings and loans groups, so farmers can buy seeds and other inputs. The grant will also assist farmers in getting their crops to market.

“When the COVID-19 health crisis hit, the Foodgrains Bank continued its work as an essential service, instead of closing programs, we and our partners did everything possible to make emergency food distribution safe for staff and families who need assistance,” said Cornelius. 

The additional funds will enable Foodgrains Bank members to reduce the increasing risk of hunger for small-scale farmers by protecting their livelihoods and guarding against threats to their farm. 

“With this additional support from Global Affairs Canada, we have an opportunity to make sure small-scale farmers, and communities in Africa who depend on them, have access to food throughout this pandemic and beyond,” said Cornelius. 

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