Located 16 miles northeast of Outlook on 160 acres of land is the River Plains Growing Project. For more than a decade, a group of local volunteers have seeded and harvested crops on this land in their commitment to feeding the hungry around the world.
The River Plains project began in 2008 with a donation of land by Arlo Larson, and with a rotation of crops has averaged more than $32,000 per year which is donated to Canadian Lutheran World Relief, a partner agency of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
Rick and Jacqui Block, Saskatchewan Representatives with the Foodgrains Bank, work with donors, businesses, community groups and schools that share a vision of a world without hunger. “One tangible and active part of this,” Rick shared, “is being a support of the numerous agricultural and community projects across the province.”
The River Plains project, one of 32 growing projects in Saskatchewan, exists thanks to the vision and hard work of a committed group of volunteers. They work together to manage all aspects of crop planning, financial sustainability and connecting to the community. “They are a wonderful group of generous and compassionate people,” Rick said, “who are utilizing the blessing of land and community, along with their skills, to provide tangible and necessary help to those suffering from hunger.”
Canola was seeded in 2019 in what proved to be a challenging growing season. The crop looked quite poor with patchy germination in mid-June, then as it began to fill out in July was hit by hail. Next came a wave of gophers that needed to be dealt with and then the wet and snowy conditions of Fall. “What a year it was,” remarked Rick.
Yet on a chilly, but sunny afternoon, on Friday of the Thanksgiving weekend, harvesting went ahead. Michele Derdall said there was a good turnout of workers and by 4:30 the last of the combines was waiting to be unloaded. “This year we grew over 7,000 bushels of canola,” she shared. “The crop averaged over 40 bushels per acre.” Six combines, three grain trucks, a semi for back-up and a team of volunteers had the crop harvested and everyone heading home within four hours.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank works in partnership with other agencies to meet immediate food needs, reduce malnutrition and strive for sustainable food security around the world. Currently, with the support of the Canadian Government, the Foodgrains Bank is able to leverage donations on a 4:1 basis, meaning donations multiply quickly. But the group points out continued support cannot be assumed. To that end, a postcard campaign was launched last year and nearly 20,000 cards were received by the Prime Minister’s Office containing the message that Canadians care about ending global hunger and poverty. The Foodgrains Bank also met with 162 MP’s who were urged to remain committed to its goals of international assistance. Rick remarked, “Overall, MP’s were genuinely encouraged to hear about what every day Canadians are doing to help alleviate hunger and its effects.”
A notable factor that impacts the monetary value of the current crop is a lower commodity price. However, the significant amount of donated inputs has meant the River Plains Growing Project remains healthy.
Those donations include a municipal land tax abatement from the RM of Rudy; 500 litres of fuel from Riverbend Co-op; hail insurance from Donna Smith; glyphosate, burn-off spraying and in-crop spraying by Glen Erlandson; four bags of canola seed from The Rack; four bags canola seed from Pioneer; seeder from Glen Erlandson operated by Jesse Erlandson; combines from Gary Leard, Jan Konst, Kent Harrington, Carson Derdall and Glenn Erlandson, driven by Gary, Lowell Erlandson, Sheena Devine, Kent, Ron Swan, Carson and Glen; swather from Glen Erlandson operated by Bryan Akre and Jesse Erlandson; trucks from Richard Tomacek and Glen Erlandson driven by Richard, Richard Mathewson and Ken Haugen; auger donated by Glen Erlandson and operated by Garth Weiterman; and of course the quarter section of land from Arlo Larson. Other donations for inputs came from Bayer Crop Science, Linda and Dennis Fuglerud and Grant Pederson. Additional fuel was provided by those offering their equipment, and the project itself purchased five bags of seed, spray and fertilizer.
Anyone wanting to get involved working to help alleviate hunger is encouraged to contact Rick Block at email@example.com or speak with one of the volunteers involved with the local project.
It is perhaps fitting that the harvest took place just as the Thanksgiving weekend was set to begin. “There is over 7,000 bushels of canola in the bin,” Michele indicated, “so despite drought, hail, gophers and snow, there was a wonderful yield. Blessed indeed!”