MELFORT, SK (October 19, 2011) – Kendell Arndt doesn’t know how to farm the 80 acres he purchased, so he turned growing canola grain into a community project that will benefit farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The member of Melfort Covenant Church is participating in the Kernels of Hope program, which is operated on behalf of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada. Farmers in several provinces donate their time to grow wheat and canola crops on a portion of their land set aside to be “purchased” by virtual farmer donors. Those donations pay the costs of rent, seed, chemicals, insurance, and custom work.
When the crops are sold, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) matches the grain sales revenue on a four-to-one ratio to reach the final donation amount. That money is distributed to the intended recipients through the Canadian Food Grains Bank and World Relief Canada.
Since its inception in 2005, Kernels has raised more than $1.7 million. Arndt has helped with the program from the beginning, but he has done so as a virtual farmer and someone who encourages others to donate land.
Arndt bought the property two years ago and had considered renting it to farmers. “Then it clicked in my brain that I could donate it just like I have asked farmers to do for the past six years,” he told a local newspaper.
Local businesses were eager to help him farm the property as soon as they heard what Arndt wanted to do. A local equipment retailer seeded, sprayed, and harvested the crop. Another friend agreed to haul the grain to the local elevator, and that friend enlisted someone he knew to donate the seed.
Arndt did help harvest the canola field. He got a quick lesson in running a large John Deere combine and helped drive it through the fields.
Business owners said that helping with Kernels was such a rewarding experience, they look forward to doing it again next year. That has been the experience across the country as the number of people involved continues to grow.
“We get more virtual farmers all the time,” says Covenanter Ray Baloun, who initiated and now oversees the project. “It’s easier for me to find real farmers each year, too!”
Baloun reports that yields have been good and prices “quite good.” Although he won’t have final numbers for another three weeks, Baloun says, “I am guessing it may be our best year ever.”
Just over $19,000 worth of canola was harvested from Arndt’s property recently. Because of the 4:1 matching funds, that harvest yielded a total of $76,000.
In previous years, money from the Kernels project was used to provide implements and other needed supplies to farmers in South Sudan and Liberia.