By Trish Jordan
One of the things I really love about my job is the opportunity it provides to build relationships with farmers and collaborate with external stakeholders to reach common goals.
Monsanto Canada engages in many partnerships – both in our day-to-day business activities and through our corporate engagement in the community. This week on a farm visit to rural Manitoba, I was reminded how fortunate I am to witness the benefit of partnering with others to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a Canadian-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that works with Canadian farmers, Canadian churches and other Canadians to end hunger in the world. They focus specifically on providing food-aid and development assistance to people in need by supporting international programs to meet immediate food needs, reduce malnutrition and achieve sustainable food security. They also focus on increasing and deepening the engagement of Canadians in the effort to end global hunger.
One of the unique ways the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) generates donations to carry out their mission is by working with farmers in rural communities across the country to grow a crop – wheat, soybeans, canola or pretty much any other crop – which is then harvested and donated to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
But this work doesn’t just involve farmers. Through Community Growing Projects, groups of people work together to plant, tend and harvest a crop. Proceeds from the sale of the crop are then donated to the Foodgrains Bank for use in its relief and development programs with resource-poor farmers and communities in the developing world.
Local businesses, as well as Canadian grain and life-science companies, also help by donating inputs such as seed, chemicals and fertilizer, and services such as trucking, insurance or promotion. Not only does this help keep production costs down, it fosters a sense of community spirit as local people work together to help others.
Monsanto Canada has been a strong supporter of the Community Growing Project program for almost 20 years, providing annual donations of seed, technology and crop inputs to farmers who volunteer their time to this important work. 2013 was the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and in recognition of this important milestone, John Longhurst, director of resources and public engagement at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, approached Monsanto Canada about partnering with them on a special project in its anniversary year.
It was an honor to be asked to lend a hand and after some brainstorming, we decided to seek a Monsanto Fund grant to allow for 30 new community growing projects, each of 30 acres, to be grown in rural communities across the country. A total of $100,000 was provided by the Monsanto Fund to support these new projects in 2013 and 2014.
Which brings me back to why I was at Tiny Creek Farms Ltd. this morning, on the farm of Bernie and Audrey Brandt. Joining the Brandts were Longhurst and the CFGB regional coordinator, Harold Penner, as well as Mark Reimer of Reimark Farms Inc., another long-time supporter who grew 30 acres of DEKALB soybeans to donate to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
The purpose of the visit was for these farmers and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to thank Monsanto and the Monsanto Fund for our gifts and to share with me how the funds have been put to use. What was really rewarding was to hear about the impact our donation has had. The $100,000 Monsanto Fund gift that helped get 30 new community growing projects in the ground has generated 2.5 times the initial donation – all of which will go to helping feed and support hungry people in need!
As is the case in any good farm visit, we also had the opportunity to share a coffee and talk about a wide range of topics important to all of us. Things like farming, conservation, water, agricultural awareness, hunger, development and building partnerships. We also talked about sustainability and what that means to farmers versus what consumers might define as sustainable farming. It was a rich discussion with recognition that agriculture is facing many challenges and we will need all types of farming and innovative and varied ideas to help realize the Canadian Foodgrains Bank vision of a world without hunger.
On the way back to the city, we stopped off at the local project which is situated along a major east-west highway just outside Steinbach – a visible location with great signage that helps to spread the message, thank supporters and raise awareness of what the Canadian Foodgrains Bank program is all about. The winter wheat is about three to four weeks from harvest and looks like it will yield a healthy, abundant harvest.
Tackling the issue of hunger, nutrition and development is a huge challenge. I am thankful Monsanto and the Monsanto Fund is willing to seek out partnerships and share our resources with those who can make a difference. Seeing a respected and effective NGO like the Canadian Foodgrains Bank produce such noticeable and measurable results with the help of farmers and knowing we had a part to play in “improving lives” makes for a great day at the office… or in this case, a great day on the farm.