Manitoba farmers combat global hunger with combines during fundraising harvest

The Crossborders Community Project near Kola harvested more than 100 hectares of wheat Friday in support of Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Harvesters cleared 100 hectares of wheat near Kola, in southwestern Manitoba, for Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Wheat is spit out the back of combine harvester.
A combine harvester reaps a field of wheat at the annual Cross Borders Community Project near Kola on Friday. The harvest raises funds to support the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a charitable organization that works to fight global hunger. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Combines in southwestern Manitoba threshed more than 100 hectares (250 acres) of wheat Friday, with each bushel reaped supporting the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Don Neufeld is the co-ordinator for the Crossborders Community Project — the group behind Friday's harvest in the Kola, Man., area, close to the Saskatchewan border, which saw about 150 people gather for a community picnic and charity harvesting event.

"When the harvest comes …  it's tremendous. This is the only time that urban people actually get to see what happens in agriculture," he said.

"This is an opportunity to showcase agriculture and it's nice for people to be able to come out, especially the school kids."

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership between 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies that aims to fight global hunger, through initiatives like working with locally based organizations in developing countries to meet emergency food needs and working to find long-term solutions to hunger.

A combine harvests a field of wheat.
A combine harvester gets to work during Friday's harvest near Kola, Man. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Neufeld has been involved with the Crossborders project for 38 years, after it was launched by his father, Art Neufeld.

He is excited about every harvest season, he said, describing the Foodgrains harvest day and community lunch as "just like Christmas."

A crowd of people sit in a field eating lunch.
A community picnic was held before farmers started Friday's charity harvest. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

He says he's eager to get on the field each season because he appreciates how fortunate he is to live in Canada and have food security.

"We always have enough food to eat and there's people that don't," said Neufeld.

"Agriculture is my passion … growing food for hungry people is my passion," he said. "It's kept me going all these years."

The 100 hectares of wheat planted by the Crossborders Community Project this year was actually down slightly from past years, since excess water prevented the planting of around five hectares (12 acres). 

The harvest was also slightly delayed this year, Neufeld added, due to the cold wet spring preventing early seeding.

But 16 combines, 16 trucks and about five grain carts swept the fields Friday, clearing the wheat in about 90 minutes. Neufeld expects the yield to come in around 70 bushels.

A man sits at the wheel of a combine harvester driving through a field of wheat.
Miles Neufeld operates a combine harvester during the Crossborders harvest. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)
A combine harvester drops wheat in a grain cart.
A combine harvester drops wheat in a grain cart. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Before the combines started their engines, the community hosted a picnic celebrating the harvest, which was co-organized by Jan Neufeld, Don's wife.

Crossborders is a community effort, Jan said, and the lunch honours the project and the impact it has around the world.

"Anybody who has helped us through the year with the farming effort comes together here, and it's just a way of giving back to them what they do for us as farmers."

A woman holding a baby picks up food at a barbecue.
Chealsey Beutler, left, and one-year-old Renn are served lunch by Suzanne Chapman. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)
Four boys sits on old farm equipment laughing and eating lunch.
From left: Luke Archambault, 11, Ethan Martines, 10, Zane, 9, and Tydus Neufeld, 10, eat lunch. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

Organizers try to plan the harvest day to take place before the school year begins, so youth in the area can attend, she said. During the school year, classes are encouraged to take field trips to the site to learn more about farming.

"It's important because the kids are the future for agriculture. They need to be able to see … where your food comes from, and [that] when people gather and come together to work together, good things can happen," Jan said.

"It's important to teach them and show them … how community works."

Gordon Janzen, the Manitoba and northwestern Ontario regional representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, said the funds raised by the Crossborders project will support programming his organization does in 34 different countries. That includes nutrition and agricultural training in addition to emergency food response, he said.

A man speaks into a microphone as people watch.
Canadian Foodgrains representative Gordon Janzen says grace. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The Crossborders project "is one that brings people together from not only here in Kola, but the surrounding communities across the border into Saskatchewan. So it's really a great community spirit," Janzen said.

Friday's event in Kola was the first Foodgrains harvest project of 2022 in Manitoba. There are 32 active growing projects in place in the province, Janzen said.

A wheat field.
Wheat set to be harvested. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The project is planned by a local committee that makes decisions and designates the donations. Janzen is grateful for communities like Kola that have committed themselves to a project each year.

"It's just all thanks to the community people that are looking beyond themselves to the needs of hungry people around the world," he said.

While there are hungry people in Canada, there are many in desperate need in countries around the world, he said.

"So we really think they're thankful for the community people here."

Two men sit on chairs watching a combine harvester drive through a wheat field.
Two men watch a combine harvest wheat on Friday. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)


Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with