Foodgrains Bank feels effects of up-and-down summer

Poor growing conditions here at home could have far-reaching impacts around the world, as Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing projects struggle to get their crops off.

“Most of the southern projects are done, but farther north, there’s almost nothing done,” said Terence Barg, northern Alberta regional representative for the Foodgrains Bank.

“If the yields aren’t good or the commodity prices are lower — like they are right now with canola — that definitely affects the amount that’s contributed.”

The growing projects are key to the efforts of the 36-year-old organization, which is dedicated to combating hunger in nearly 40 countries in the developing world. It has more than 200 growing projects across the country, including 31 in Alberta.

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“The Alberta projects, like all growing projects, are groups of farmers, local community members, and local businesses that grow a crop on a parcel of land, and when that crop is sold, the proceeds go to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to further the work we do in other countries,” said Barg.

The funds raised are matched by the Canadian government on a four-to-one basis, up to a maximum of $25 million every year.

Last year, Alberta growing projects raised more than $2.8 million — $1.9 million of which came from grain donations. But this year’s harvest delays and variable growing conditions could see that number dip, reducing the level of support available for Foodgrains projects around the world.

“We can only program with the funds that are donated, so if that amount is down, that limits what we can do,” said Barg.

Most years, poor growing conditions in one part of the country are balanced by good harvests elsewhere.

“Some areas may have good crops and good growing conditions, and other areas may have poor ones. So often it averages out.”

But this year is tricky.

Across the board, production is expected to drop for key field crops, including canola, soybeans, and corn. And while the growing projects in the southern parts of the province have mostly finished their harvests, some got hit with late-season moisture.

Others just never caught a break. For example, in Leduc, conditions were wet throughout the growing season, and that didn’t change come harvest. That impacted pea yields in the fields grown for the project, said Barg.

“With all the rain we had over the summer, they didn’t yield very well,” he said. “But there will be an insurance claim on that, so I don’t know what the final story is yet.”

But there were happy exceptions, he said, citing the Fort Saskatchewan’s growing project.

“It went fairly well. It was barley, and they were expecting a pretty good yield on that.”

That crop was contracted in the spring as tea barley for Japan and Korea and is expected to raise around $70,000 for the Foodgrains Bank.

“They locked in their price in the spring, and I think the price is better than where the barley price is right now. There will be a premium on it.”

That will help to offset any shortfalls from other growing projects that were hammered by the weather, but looking ahead, “more growing projects would be a bonus for us,” said Barg.

“We’re always looking for new growing projects, so if there are people who would be interested in hearing how these growing projects work, they can contact us,” he said. “We’d be glad to meet with them and tell them about how it works and how their community can get involved.”

And the need keeps increasing as more and more people around the world find themselves displaced by war or natural disasters.

“A lot of farmers who are involved recognize how blessed we are in this country and that there are many who don’t have enough to eat. They know we can make a difference in those lives,” said Barg.

“That’s what I hear over and over from those who are supporting us — that we can actually help to make a difference in people’s lives.”

For more information about the Foodgrains Bank or to find out more about starting your own growing project, visit foodgrainsbank.ca.

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.

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