November 30, 2015
By Simon Chambers
Six years ago when Gary Weir and his brother Ron set aside four acres of farmland as a growing project for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, they had no idea how the project would grow over time. “Ron was always passionate about the idea of having a growing project,” recalls Gary. There were already Foodgrains Bank projects nearby in Almote and Arnprior and other communities.
They raised about $600 that first year for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and were glad to repeat the project the following year, doubling their fundraising for the Foodgrains Bank. It was in 2012 that the project began to really grow, as the Weirs’ parish of Fitzroy Harbour got involved in the project. The parish took donations for inputs, or directly to the Foodgrains Bank, and the Weirs raised $3500.
Donations to PWRDF’s member account with the Foodgrains Bank are able to be used by PWRDF for projects that help to provide food after emergencies, or that help people to have enough food to eat every day over the long term. Thanks to the Foodgrains Bank’s agreement with the government of Canada, projects are eligible for matching funds as well. So when PWRDF supported people fleeing violence in South Sudan through the Foodgrains Bank, for example, the $80,000 contribution from PWRDF’s account was matched 4:1 and funded a $400,000 project.
Fast forward to 2015, and Gary Weir continues to take the lead in the West Carleton Foodgrains growing project. He works up the land, sows the seeds, and provides the equipment for the project. Lisa Probst, the parish PWRDF representative, is involved in awareness raising efforts in the surrounding areas. The parish of Fitzroy Harbour has joined with Christ Church, Bell’s Corners—an urban church—in the project, with Christ church supplying funds for the seed and fertilizer, as well as building a large sign to advertise the project, which now covers 25 acres of land right near the major road.
The West Carleton Foodgrains growing project is supported by many people and businesses in the area, providing land, inputs and more. The parishes support the project through creative events like the Haunted House at St. George’s, Fitzroy Harbour this year, and the harvest meal hosted by Christ Church last fall which brought the two parishes together for evensong, dinner, and a presentation about the project.
Lisa’s work is all about raising awareness. “Many people don’t know what the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is, or what it does,” she said. “I go once a year and use the community table at the farmers’ market in Carp, where I put up posters, give out handouts about the Foodgrains Bank, and engage people in conversation.” This gives her the opportunity to talk about PWRDF, the Foodgrains Bank, and some of the nuances of emergency and sustainability work.
Gary had the combine out last weekend, harvesting this year’s crop for the PWRDF account with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. He hopes they’ll raise over $10,000 again this year. “I’m happy to see that it’s something my brother started and that it’s continued on,” Gary said. Ron is ill and unable to work on the project. But Gary continues the work, knowing how important it is, and how much his brother is pleased by it.