Grow Hope partnerships are helping to feed hungry people around the world

Farmer Nathan Janzen, Diocese of Saskatoon representative Myron Rogal, Canadian Foodgrains Bank representative Jacqueline Block, and MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) representative Rick Guenther stand before a field of wheat which the Janzen family are growing for the Grow Hope Saskatchewan project. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

With harvest just around the corner, partners who are pulling together to address hunger around the world gathered for a Grow Hope Field Day in Rosthern.

The Aug. 24 event provided updates about the crops that have been planted to raise funds for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and highlighted issues of food production and food security at several stations throughout the community – including a Grow Hope Saskatchewan wheat field.

Grow Hope Saskatchewan – 2019 Field Day showcased the project, farmers, donors, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and issues related to food and hunger. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

There is still time to sponsor an acre, a part acre, or multiple acres through Grow Hope, which involves three Saskatchewan farm families growing crops on a total of 180 acres this year, partnering with donors – urban and rural – who contribute funds to pay for the seed and other input costs. When the sponsored acres are harvested, proceeds from the sale of the crops will go to Canadian Foodgrains Bank to address hunger and food security for vulnerable people in crisis around the world. The amount raised and donated to Canadian Foodgrains Bank is also matched four-to-one by the Canadian government, multiplying the impact of the project.

This year, three farm families are involved in Grow Hope Saskatchewan, with a total of 180 acres seeded for the project and available for sponsorship.

Catholic farm families involved in Grow Hope this year are Michelle and Brian Hergott, who farm near Bruno (planting 40 acres of canola for the project), and Ian, Patrick and Reg Sonntag who farm near Goodsoil (growing 50 acres of oats). The Rosthern-area Mennonite farm family of Nathan and Jeanette Janzen have seeded 90 acres of wheat.

Checking out the crop during the Grow Hope Field Day. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

The project’s many partnerships were highlighted during presentations at the 2019 Grow Hope Field Day. Joining together to address hunger are urban and rural residents, volunteers and businesses, and faith-based organizations including the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (Caritas Canada), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

In a tent adjacent to the local Food Bank garden in Rosthern, with a nearby combine on display, Field Day speakers provided information related to the various partner groups.

Diocesan Development and Peace / Caritas Canada chair Bernice Daratha described that Catholic organization’s commitment to addressing hunger. She noted the recent launch of a Development and Peace partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to address the food crisis facing vulnerable women and children in Venezuela.

MCC executive director Eileen Klassen-Hamm spoke about the involvement of the Mennonite community and its long-time support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a faith-based partnership of 15 church and church-based organizations representing some 30 denominations, which includes both MCC and Development and Peace.

Michelle Hergott and her husband Brian have seeded 40 acres of Canola for the project. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

Farmer Michelle Hergott gave an update on the Grow Hope acres on which she and her husband are growing canola – which had a rough start because of the dry spring.

“It has been just as bad as 1988 – the year we worked under our crop,” she said, describing how things looked bleak at the beginning of this season. During the dry May and early June, when people asked the Hergotts about the Grow Hope crop, the answer was “it’s not up yet,” she described. “But I think because people kept coming up and asking us, and we said “please pray” that we are now heading into harvest right away, and our crop is looking really, really good. We are very excited with how it has turned around… but keep praying, it is not in the bin yet!

Michelle described how her husband has long wanted to do more to help feed the hungry in our world, something he sees as part of his calling as a farmer. “We are excited to be part of Grow Hope,” she said. “We are global community, and Grow Hope is bridging gaps – not only to somebody who is super far away from us, but also across the street, as people come up and ask us about it.” She concluded: “May God continue to bless us – We are one tribe under one beautiful sky.”

Ted Janzen of Rosthern spoke on behalf of donors, describing how he and his wife Beverley have farming in their backgrounds, and have always had farming connections through family, even when they moved off the land and pursued a non-farming career.

“Grow Hope is a way of participating in raising a crop – it lets us pretend to be farmers,” Ted said. “The multiplying effect of course drives a good portion of the amount of food and money that can be produced to help people around the world. The project makes a real difference.”

Rick Block, who along with his wife Jacqueline serves as regional representative of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, spoke about the organization’s impact, as it brings food, training, and hope to people around the world who are threatened by hunger and food insecurity.

“As regional reps of Canadian Foodgrains Bank we meet with folks on the ground who see the world is larger than simply Saskatchewan. They understand and feel the suffering from the lack of a physical need, or some other injustice,” he said. “These are urban and rural residents who share a common concern for those impacted by hunger, who are committed to sharing their financial resources and their food resources for those in need.”

Block added: “Hope germinates and hope ripens.”

The Grow Hope Field Day is a day of shared learning – “the best kind of learning” – said Block, who also reflected on the importance of stewardship. “We often think about stewardship – especially in Saskatchewan – in terms of managing land well, caring for the land, and also managing resources… but it is more than that. It includes even the small spaces such as Boulevard Gardens (an urban garden in Rosthern)  – and it is broader than simply land.”

Grow Hope participants stopped at stations in Rosthern to eat and to learn more about food security and hunger issues during Grow Hope Field Day 2019. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

“Good stewardship manages these gifts and indeed recognizes that gifts are from the Creator, from God – and we manage these gifts indefinitely for our well-being. They are bestowed to us and they are entrusted to us.”

Canadian Foodgrains Bank has a network of relationships all around the world – working with local partners, said Block. In addition, it is a great benefit that Global Affairs Canada will match funds raised for Foodgrains Bank up to four-to-one.

“We help to meet immediate food needs and to support the work that helps to build sustainable livelihoods for small-scale farm families,” he said, stressing that “displacement and hunger essentially go hand-in-hand.”

Block described the impact of food assistance to a displaced family in Yemen, and to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and the benefits of soil conservation projects for some 60,000 farm families in Africa, promoting “practices that improve soil quality to help families grow more food and more nutrient-dense food.”

Link to Grow Hope 2019 video

Rick Guenther of MCC gave an overview of how Grow Hope works, and noted there is still a need for more sponsors for acres that have been seeded this year. “Each acre is $300 to sponsor – you can sponsor full acre, part acre, multiple acres,” he said. Sponsorship covers input costs, and donors get a charitable donation receipt for donations over $20. When crops from sponsored acres are sold, the proceeds go to Canadian Foodgrains Bank, with the hope that the return will average about $500 an acre. Last year, some of the crop sold for as high as $700 an acre, he noted. “That won’t happen every year – probably not this year.”

The project is set up so that donations can either be made to the Development and Peace account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (via the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation website at dscf.ca)  or to the MCC account.

The government’s matching formula has the potential to multiply the original $300 donation to $2,500 an acre, Guenther said. “It really is like spinning straw into gold from this unique partnership.”

The Field Day program concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving led by Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The event continued into the afternoon, with participants visiting a number of stations featuring information and locally-produced food – including food prepared by Chef Jenni at the Good Neighbours Food Centre. Other stops a food bank garden, as well as Boulevard Garden – an urban vegetable garden grown to benefit Canadian Foodgrains Bank with the sale of produce and/or homemade soupb – and a Grow Hope wheat field planted by local farmers Nathan and Jeanette Janzen.

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