Mikaela Lemay didn’t just want to help people in developing countries when she got involved with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
She wanted to help Canadian consumers too.
“So much of the fear of agriculture is emotion based, so I thought it would be good to counteract that with positivity,” said the three Hills-area agronomist.
“By appealing to people’s feelings through charitable acts like this, we reach people on an emotional level. through projects like these, we can bring some transparency to what we’re doing and why.”
Lemay had been looking for a way to become more engaged in the local ag community when a neighbour told her about the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a national aid organization that provides training and food assistance in developing countries. The partnership of 15 churches and church-based organizations got its start with farmer donations of grain. Today, community growing projects across the country are a key source of funding.
These projects bring farmers and businesses together to grow a crop and then sell it to raise funds for the Foodgrains Bank, supporting development projects and food assistance in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and south America.
There are more than 200 growing projects across Canada — 30 in Alberta alone — providing aid to 35 different countries.
After doing a bit of research, Lemay found that she liked what the Foodgrains Bank stands for. But she also felt it was the kind of cause that millennials — both farmers and consumers — could get behind.
So when she suggested to the local organizers that some younger farmers should head up the growing project in nearby Trochu, she quickly found herself in charge.
“It has been a complete whirl-wind of a growing season,” said Lemay. “The generosity, as well as the collaboration of different farms, is a true testament to what I see every day in the agricultural community. the co-operation is like the barn raisings of an earlier time.”
Now she wants to share that experience with consumers.
“I think it’s important to start a conversation to show people where their food is coming from,” said Lemay. “Creating that conversation is one of the most important things we as producers can do.”
Most people are far removed from the farm, and that’s creating a divide between farmers and the people they feed, said Lemay. “It used to be that if you weren’t raised on a farm, your parents certainly were. Now it’s exceptional if your grandparents were farm kids,” she said.
And even though social media has made it easier than ever for producers to connect with consumers, it’s also given “a dangerous platform to the uninformed,” she said. Lemay hopes to use the community growing project to show consumers the realities of farming and help them become better informed.
“We as farmers are so passionate about what we do. We’re all farmers because we believe in feeding others,” she said. “the trials we face show that our heart is truly in the best place. We aren’t out to hurt people. We feed these products to our family every day, and the public needs to understand that.”
While this year’s growing project harvest was a hasty one because of the forecasted snow, Lemay hopes to bring more young farmers on board next year and promote the project on social media, in classroom activities, at field days, and through community harvest events.
“That’s how we’ll begin to open the conversation,” said Lemay. “I’m so excited to see where the project and our community can take it.”