On July 31, farmers from across Canada and the United States came together in Austin, Man., to make history and raise money for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
As about 8,000 people watched, 750 volunteers operated a record-breaking 139 antique threshing machines, simultaneously harvesting a field of winter wheat in 15 minutes during the 62nd Manitoba Thresherman’s Reunion & Stampede at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum.
While it has yet to be certified by Guinness World Records, event organizers believe they have set a new record for “most threshing machines operating simultaneously” (148 machines were present, but only 139 were successful in threshing).
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Elliott Sims, co-organizer of Harvesting Hope: A World Record to Help the Hungry, in a press release by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. “The energy from the participants and crowd was amazing. You could feel the pride and excitement.”
The threshers were not only working to break the record, however-they were also raising money to help small-scale farmers in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya adapt to climate change through conservation agriculture, an approach to farming that emphasizes moisture preservation and moisture retention.
John Longhurst, director of resources and public engagement for the Foodgrains Bank, said it is not yet known how much money the event brought in, but he expressed deep admiration for the “generosity of Canadian farmers.”
The funds will be split evenly between the Foodgrains Bank and the Manitoba Agricultural Museum.
Consisting of 15 churches and church agencies representing 30 denominations, the Foodgrains Bank helps connect church aid organizations to government funding. The Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development arm, The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), has been a member since 2008.
Longhurst explained that the Foodgrains Bank annually brings Canadian farmers to the African countries in which it is active, to offer advice and build relationships.
Connecting Canadian and East African farmers, he added, is more natural than it might at first seem.
“The language may be different, and the situation is different, and the climate is different and everything else is different, but when two farmers get together, they understand each other,” he said. “They are both on their hands and knees and going through the soil.”
This is not the first time a fundraiser has been organized around breaking a threshing machine world record. In 2013, a group of farmers in Langenburg, Sask., set the record with 42 threshing machines, and donated the proceeds to the Foodgrains Bank.
Manitoban farmers, not to be outdone, originally set out to break the Saskatchewan record, but in the meantime, a group in St. Albert, Ont., set a new record with 111 machines in 2015, forcing the Manitobans to up the ante.
Longhurst spoke fondly about the support the Foodgrains Bank receives on the prairies, noting the “deep roots” it has in the agricultural world, and the willingness many farmers have shown over the years to support the bank’s humanitarian work.
“One of the things that is really, really key to us is the idea of…communities coming together,” said Longhurst, “They are the engine that makes this thing go, because they are the ones who do all the work on the ground.
“We benefit from this enormous sense of commitment and ownership that people in rural Canada feel for the Foodgrains Bank and the work of its members.”
Described by Longhurst as one of the largest hands-on ecumenical organizations in Canada, the Foodgrains Bank has, for 40 years, been involved in providing disaster assistance, nutritional aid to mothers and children, and support and education for agriculturalists in the developing world.