An 80-acre field next to Highway 2 near Starbuck is now covered with snow, but later this year the crop that’s grown and harvested might prevent someone from starving.
For the past five years, a group named Communities Offering Others Life has used the land to grow wheat and soybean crops. When the annual crop is sold, the money is donated to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and used to provide food and seeds through international relief programs.
One of the project’s main organizers is Dave Wiebe, who farms near Starbuck. He provides some of the hands-on work required to plant, grow and harvest the group’s crop each year.
Wiebe, 51, said the group includes congregations from the Springstein Mennonite Church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Starbuck, Starbuck United Church, Starbuck Roman Catholic Church and Sacré-Coeur Roman Catholic Church in Fannystelle, with Winnipeg’s Sturgeon United Church’s congregation joining in 2013.
"We wanted to make the idea of providing international relief more real for people in the pews," Wiebe said.
After 11 combines harvested last year’s soybeans, the sale raised $27,000. Wiebe said the Canadian International Development Agency matches all Foodgrains Bank donations on a 4:1 basis, so the donation total reached over $100,000.
As well as raising money, the Communities Offering Others Life group usually holds a worship service in the field in July. Wiebe said the urban church members appreciate having the chance to come out to the country and see the project first-hand.
They are also invited to watch the harvest, and last year about 75 people attended, Wiebe said.
Wiebe said local businesses have supported the project through seed and fertilizer donations, among other supplies.
"Local businesses have been great in donating supplies."
He and representatives from the four churches will soon meet to decide on what to grow this year. Wiebe said, with wheat prices falling, they will look at other crops.