Planting the seeds to address world hunger: Share the Harvest returns for 18th year

In support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, the 18th annual Share the Harvest has kicked off in the region. Local farmers will seed 420 acres and hope to raise upwards of $200,000 or more from crop sales, which is eligible for up to 4:1 in matching government grants. Photo Supplied

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Supporting the developing world, especially during a global pandemic, is more important than ever, according to local farmers.

Seeding is nearly complete for the 18th annual Share the Harvest initiative. With crops of mostly canola and some wheat across 420 acres, the group spearheaded by area farmers hopes to raise $150,000 to $200,000 from crop sales. That donation can be amplified by 4:1 matching government grants.

Despite recent wet conditions, one of the Share the Harvest directors, Tom Eppinga seeded the 145 acre Grow Project, which is sponsored by the agricultural industry, as well as the 150 acre Grow Hope field. Both of those fields are located just outside of Gibbons. Photo Supplied

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, more than 820 million people are struggling with hunger because of food system disruptions and economic slowdown challenges, and food assistance and protecting people’s livelihoods are essential.

“The need is greater than ever because these developing nations have much less than us in the first place. They were already struggling to begin with, and throwing that COVID curve in there, it’s making things extremely difficult. Much more hunger is being projected,” said Shaun Galloway, a retired local farmer and one of the Share the Harvest directors.

This year, the group has 145 acres funded by agricultural industrial companies and donations from local farmers, which includes donated land and crop inputs such as seed and fertilizer. In partnership with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta, another 275 acres will be opened to the public for sponsorship, which is dubbed the Grow Hope Project.

“We really do feel blessed to live in the land of plenty and we just feel called to support those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families in developing nations. We’re very gratified to make a difference in other people’s lives. It’s a great group to be involved in and it’s great to see how our supporters have rallied around us year after year.”

The 17th annual Share the Harvest campaign, organized by local farmers, collected around $150,000, which when matched by federal government grants, the overall contribution was closer to $500,000. In 2019, 218 of 270 acres were sponsored. Lindsay Morey/News Staff/File

In 2018-19, the CFGB helped more than 800,000 people in 36 countries.

Trips paid to Ethiopia in 2009 and 2012 reinforced Galloway’s passion for this kind of work. He saw firsthand how farmers there pour in hours of physical labour into their fields. Funds raised by Share the Harvest supports the Canadian Food Grains Banks (CFGB), which is dedicated to providing help to people in developing nations feed their families and improve farming technology. In addition to the emergency food aid provided, Galloway noted funds could help provide new farming techniques such as conservation tillage and irrigation projects. He visited a farm in the eastern portion of the country run by the nomadic Afar Muslim tribe.

“It was really motivating to go there and see how the projects are helping people. Just to watch them work, they were using hard labour to dig ditches for irrigation, so there were hundreds of people involved and they were paid with food. (CFGB) was providing low-technology so it’s sustainable for future generations, so the wheels won’t fall off the cart if they lose a pump or motor,” recalled Galloway. “When you go there, you have an appreciation for everything we have at home. I don’t think you fully appreciate that until you travel to a place like that.”

Katie Bajema and Olivia Guillaume helped kick off the combine harvesting just outside Gibbons in mid-September 2019 for the 17th Share the Harvest. Lindsay Morey/News Staff/File

The 17th annual Share the Harvest campaign collected around $150,000, which when matched by federal government grants, the overall contribution was closer to $500,000. In 2019, out of 270 acres, about 218 acres were sponsored.

“We raised quite a bit of funding. Obviously, we want to have all of our acres sponsored so we were a little short of our goal last year. We know that during this COVID environment, people are hurting financially and many domestic food banks also need support.. but there are some people who have a heart for this particular project,” added Galloway. “A lot of money can be raised from just one person providing sponsorship with the 4:1 matching grants.”

Over the past 17 years, local Share the Harvest farmers have raised more than $1.5 million.

For more information, go to www.sharetheharvest.ca and to provide a public donation for the Grow Hope project, go to mccab.ca/growhope.

lmorey@postmedia.com

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