Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gulf Islands Bounty - how do we share our good fortune?

This summer the Gulf Islands have been just awesome. The cooler summer weather might have disappointed some, but it was great for growing grass for the sheep and cows. We rushed to get hay in between the rain showers and the fields stayed green a long time. We are already feasting from the garden and had some lovely broccoli, zucchini and salads. Our freezers are filled with lamb. On the weekend we picked our first blackberries of the season and ate huckleberries in the cool forest. On hotter afternoons we escaped to the nearby beach for a cool swim and to enjoy the beauty and peace. Some with boats enjoyed the bounty of the sea, bringing salmon home to enjoy on the barbeque. We are indeed fortunate to call the islands home, where nobody needs to go hungry. Even the bullfrogs that have spread out on the islands are edible.
As farmers, there is always the thought of food in your mind. The responsibility of producing food for the community rests on the farmer's shoulders. There is a unique food bank that is supported by farmers in Canada that donates food and resources to hungry people in developing countries. The idea for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank came from a Winnipeg businessman and philanthropist Arthur DeFehr. He came up with the idea in the 1970's after returning from a Mennonite Central Committee assignment in Bangladesh where he saw a great need for help. He had a pretty good idea that prairie farmers would be willing to help with the idea of a foodgrains bank. In the 1920's, many farmers emigrated from Russia to North America, especially in the prairies. The farmers sent food aid to people in Eastern Europe who were hungry as a result of the Russian Revolution, resulting in the formation of the Mennonite Central Committee.
The bountiful Canadian harvest in 1976 and DeFehr's idea resulted in the establishment of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank with the support of many church and farm organizations. The Foodgrains Bank operates on the Joseph Principle. Its name comes from the Old Testament leader who advised the Egyptian pharaoh to store up food in good harvest years so there would be enough in years of famine. The Canadian Foodgrains Bank formed in time to help with the Ethiopian crisis in 1984. Initially grain was shipped directly to locations of need, but today farmers donate portions of their harvest to be sold on the Canadian market and then the proceeds are donated.
Fundraising also occurs with annual auctions across Canada. The Make A Difference Sale in Abbotsford is one of three auctions held for the Foodgrains bank. Livestock producers in BC donate animals, and other businesses also donate items for the annual spring auction. Other fundraising comes from the farmers in individual and community projects. For example, four Ontario farmers seeded 160 acres with soybeans to donate to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Another church group planted potatoes in the empty cemetery plots in their community and plan to sell the potatoes for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. There are over 200 growing projects, where farmers and others get together to grow and harvest a crop for the Foodgrains Bank. Last year Canadian farmers donated $4.8 million from the sale of 19,523 tonnes of foodgrains in 2010-11, while other Canadians gave $4.3 million. The Canadian government matches donations 1:1 with the foodgrains bank.
It all adds up to providing over 1.1 million tonnes of food in 78 countries since 1983. The Foodgrains Bank used the donations, along with matching funds from CIDA, to provide $38 million of assistance for over 2 million people in 35 countries. Between emergencies like Somalia and eastern Africa, and with almost one billion people in the world not having enough to eat there is an opportunity for a community like ours to share our good fortune.
To donate, call 1-800-665-0377, or send a cheque to Box 767, Winnipeg, Man. R3C 2L4. Donations should be marked for East Africa Drought. These projects are supported by Canadian International Development Agency.

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