Earlier this spring, it was hard to imagine a plentiful season. Farmers were only beginning to harvest some of last year's crops due to an early winter, canola fields were replanted as the result of a late frost in May, and the pandemic disrupted many plans. The season ahead looked challenging, not to mention the usual hurdles of upredictable rain, bugs and weeds.
Ed Barkman, a volunteer and local ambassador of Grow Hope, was prepared to lower his expectations. "I thought we would sponsor 150 or 200 acres, call it a COVID year and try to do better next year," he explained.
Fortunately, 2020 still had a few surprises to share. Thanks to generous Grow Hope donors, 326 acres were sponsored this year which is only a few acres less than the year before, explained Barkman. This year has turned out to be an amazing success, he added.
MCC photo/Katie Bergman
This season's total yield production will be over $155,000. That total will be deposited into MCC's account with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and could be match up to four times before being used to provide emergency food assistance and long-term food security for people globally.
The season would not have been successful without the generosity of donors and the hard work from Grow Hope farmers, who have continued to work during these tough times.
"I think pandemic or not, [food production] is still important," said Clayton Harder, Grow Hope's seventh and newest farmer. After 20 years of farming, Harder’s summer looked different this year as he juggled caring for his crops and teaching his two little girls from home.
Harder explained that because farming was declared an essential service, he was able to continue his work without major changes. "I'd say I'm pretty lucky and so are most farmers," he said.
"Hopefully through the program and through everybody's participation as a whole...we can perhaps make a small dent in some hunger somewhere"
- Clayton Harder, Grow Hope Farmer in Manitoba
It was Edwin Redekopp, the owner of the field Harder currently farms, who encouraged Harder to get involved.
"It seemed like an interesting way to contribute and I have driven past a few fields in the past with [Grow Hope] signage on them and it always made me curious," he said. The call from Redekopp motivated Harder to join the 2020 Grow Hope season.
For Harder, his work is all about the impact. "The globe is a big place. I don't know how much of an impact my individual actions will have, but hopefully through the program and through everybody's participation as a whole, we can learn a bit more about food production itself and possibly with the donation and the money that it raises we can perhaps make a small dent in some hunger somewhere".
The support of Grow Hope farmers and donors are making a difference in the lives of farmers all over the world. Farmers like Yean, who had struggled to provide for his family in Cambodia, now have access to no-interest loans that were made available through an MCC-supported farmer-led cooperative.
That loan helped Yean start a vegetable garden and build a chicken coop, and now, Yean’s garden produces enough food to feed his family and he sells the surplus as additional income. The generosity of Grow Hope farmers and donors ensures people like Yean can create livelihoods for themselves.
As the season comes to an end, Barkman is grateful for the generosity he’s witnessed from Grow Hope donors and hard-working Manitoba farmers. "It’s a great program to link urban and farmer growers. Together between the two communities, we can raise money for important causes,” said Barkman.