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Combining for a cause

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

It isn’t only wealthy benefactors and government agencies that help with hunger relief. Farmers help in many ways too. On September 30 at 12 noon, Ontario farmers will jump on 100 combines on a Perth County farm to set a world record soybean harvest. Five farmers from the Listowel/Monktonarea have planted a 160-acre field of soybeans with a goal of harvesting all 10,000 bushels it in less than 10 minutes. Their hope is to raise $200,000 by auctioning the soybeans at the site right after the record-breaking attempt.

The soybeans were planted this spring by volunteer organizers Richard Van Donkersgoed, Peter Rastorfer, Mike Koetsier, John Tollenaar and Randy Drenth. According to these farmers, “One hundred combines is the minimum to set the world record, but our goal is to get 150 combines in the field on harvest day.” The more combines the faster the field can be harvested in world record time.

The project, dubbed Harvest for Hunger, is a unique effort along with others by farmers across the country that will raise money for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank- a partnership of 15 churches and church agencies working together to battle global hunger. The use of the land, field work, seed, fertilizer, crop protection, fuel and crop scouting has been donated so that 100% of the proceeds from this harvest can be used to alleviate hunger around the world.

Feeding hungry people is more than just meeting an immediate need. It has a longer-term component too that involves helping people help themselves. Food gives people strength, and healthy people who are properly nourished are better at fighting disease than those who are weak to begin with. Once people are healthy and productive, they can then look towards feeding themselves and others.  Monies raised will be used to provide food, tools and seed to help feed hungry people is the developing world. Since 1983, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank has distributed 1.1 million tonnes of food assistance in 78 countries.

So far things are on track.  According to Rastorfer, the soybeans which have been tended all summer are looking good. And there has been a really good response for calls to farmers to sign up their combines.  This is no small feat given that 100 or more farm combines will need to be pulled off harvest at home and travel to the site to be part of this event.

And this isn’t a farmer only event. The public is invited to support the project by coming to watch the record breaking attempt on Highway 23, 1 kilometre north of Monkton (between Listowel & Mitchell). Beef and pork on a bun will be served to the expected crowd. The public can also be part of the fundraising by donating $20 per bushel to the Harvest for Hunger project. Donations of $10 or more will receive a tax deductible receipt from the Foodgrains Bank and will be added to the total amount raised by Harvest for Hunger. Details are on their website.  Anyone interested in participating with their combine should register by contacting Peter Rastorfer at 519 347 2669, or by email to

Hats go off to these five visionaries and all the many farmer-led projects across Canada in helping to feed those less fortunate.

Until the next Blog


Posted by OFAC on September 20th, 2011 :: Filed under Crops,Faces of Farming,Feeding the world,Food
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One Response to “Combining for a cause”

  1. OFAC
    October 8th, 2011

    Fundraiser a Grand Success (Press release) - Farmers in the Monkton area of Ontario have set a world record time for harvesting 160 acres of standing soybeans in 11 minutes and 43.59 seconds. They put 115 combines, each valued somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000, into the soybean field and harvested an estimated 8,000 bushels for the fundraising auction that followed. “The success of the auction, a beautiful day and a crowd of more than 3,000 has made up for any disappointment at not meeting our target time of 10 minutes.” Randy Drenth, chair of the organizing committee said after the event.

    Committee members estimate that total funds raised is closer to $250,000 than the target $200,000 for famine relief. All of the inputs to grow the soybean crop and of the ingredients for the lunch available to spectators were donated by local businesses. The lunch was available for a donation to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

    When asked why the thoroughly planned event did not meet the 10 minute target the answer was the typical challenges that farmers face every day: equipment break down and equipment jams. “At least two of the combines plugged up and another two had equipment failure,” van Donkersgoed said. “The combines that had no trouble completing their swath did so in less than the target 10 minutes but a number were needed to turn around and cut part of a swath for those that were out of the race.

    The harvest has been extensively documented. There were two fixed wing aircraft and three helicopters over the site. There were cameras on four skyjacks, on combines and in the field on utility vehicles. Early results can be seen at

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