Bridging the urban-rural divide one field at a time

May 27, 2020 | Alumni Story

Many people who live in a city don’t know much about where their food comes from. By participating in Grow Hope, Nathan Janzen (RJC 1991) is doing his part to change that.

The program of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and Mennonite Central Committee brings together Canadians who live in cities and want to give with farmers who have land they’re willing to contribute.

People can sign up to sponsor an acre for $300, which covers the costs of seed, fuel and other inputs. Then farmers plant, tend and harvest the crops and donate the proceeds to Canadian Foodgrains Bank to support food security projects around the world.

Nathan’s family has had a growing project with the Foodgrains Bank for years, but when they were approached to try out the new partnership model through Grow Hope Nathan was excited about the opportunity to connect farmers with city dwellers. The urban sponsors have the chance to visit the field and see the crops they supported, and to ask questions.

This helps create more shared knowledge and understanding. “It’s great to be able to host people and show them what we do,” Nathan says. “I’m not a real public speaker,” he says, “but I figure that’s a small part that I can do to help facilitate some understanding.”

The money from Grow Hope is donated to the Foodgrains Bank and supports the food relief and agriculture projects of MCC around the world.

I think we’ve been blessed with a lot of good fortune here, and I think it’s important to help those who are less fortunate,” Nathan says.

He especially likes that the Foodgrains Bank supports projects that work to help farmers in other parts of the world learn skills to help increase harvests and support their families for the long term. “It’s more about food security and helping them to have sustainable agriculture and education in agriculture where they are,” he says.

While Nathan didn’t go into farming straight from high school, it was always in the back of his mind since he grew up on the family farm near Rosthern. After graduating from RJC High School (RJC) he worked for a few years, attended Swift Current Bible Institute, worked in insurance before getting a diploma in agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan. Then he headed back to work on, and eventually run, the farm. He enjoys the variety and challenge in the work of agriculture.

“There is always something different at every time of year, never mundane or the same. It’s nice to be self-employed,” he says.

In his three years at RJC, Nathan enjoyed the community of students, the dedication and care of the teachers, and the arts program.

He worked on set building and lighting for drama. The two out trips were also highlights, canoeing down the Saskatchewan River and camping in Missinippi. He also appreciated the integration of Christian values into the education, and sees the connection between that and his work with the Foodgrains Bank and Grow Hope.

Having different speakers in chapel and hearing from people doing service work around the world helps broaden your worldview, he says. “It reminds you that there is work to be done beyond what you see in front of you or what’s around you. There’s always a need elsewhere.”