Original Published on Nov 16, 2022 at 22:37

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — For years, Thunder Bay farmers have been growing extra crops of grains like wheat or barley and donating them to the Canadian Food Grain Bank. Over the last couple of years, the grain growers struggled with weather and volunteer availability which put a strain on the project. This year, a group of beef producers set out to create a new strategy.

“The new plan was to build on the local food and community spirit that we have in Thunder Bay,” said Jason Reid, beef producer and owner of Reidridge Farm. “We bought four animals and we put them on to feed, then we went around the farming and businesses that deal with farmers and we asked for donations for whatever they had available to be able to support the project.”

Reid says they grew the four cattle until early November then took them to Thunder Bay Meat Processing where they were processed and divided up into meat packages of varying sizes. The packages ranged from a full side of beef down to smaller packages of various cuts.

When it was all said and done, 3,000 pounds of beef was divided with one-half donated to both Grace Place and Adult Teen Challenge. The other half that contained higher-end cuts such as steaks and pot roasts were placed into packages along with other farm donations of pork and veal to be auctioned at a gala dinner.

“We sold tickets to the big gala beef dinner that took place on Saturday at Fort William Historical Park, and served the prime rib that we took from the beef that we raised,” Reid said, adding that they auctioned the remaining portion of high-end cuts to people at the gala.

“The money that was raised from the auction will help offset the remainder of the cost of growing the beef and the rest of it will go to the Canadian Food Grains Bank, which works with many different organizations all over the world to help them fund hunger relief programs.”

Reid explained it costs upwards of $5,000 to raise one head of cattle.

“Once we purchased the animal and paid for the feed and processing, all of that costs money. Our costs are just outrageous right now with the fuel and the fertilizer and the labour and processing. It’s really hard right now for us to put a number on what it does cost us because it’s changing so fast.”

He says they chose Grace Place and Teen Challenge as the recipients of the beef because they felt those two places are doing some really good work. Reid says they’re dealing with the social and hunger issues by getting at the root of the social problems and not just feeding somebody to get them through today.

“It’s dealing with the real needs of people — to be able to get them out of the situation they’re in and be able to build them up so we don’t have to keep feeding that person every day,” he said.

Each organization received upwards of 600 pounds of beef cuts.

“We gave them some of the more expensive things they have on their menus,” he said. “We put a bunch of beef on their menu so that they can use their other funding and budget to (purchase other needed foods). This helps to keep their grocery bills down to help them with the work that they’re doing.”

For a first-time shot at an event of this size, the benefits certainly paid off.

“This is the first time we’ve done this type of project — and this was completely uncharted territory,” Reid said.

Although the final tally hasn’t been counted, Reid says they made roughly $12,000 from the gala, part of which will stay in their bank account for seed money for next year’s event while most of it will go to the Canadian Food Grains Bank.

“It was a lot more work than what we had thought it was gonna be,” he said. “It sounded so simple on paper last January. But we love to connect with our customers and I think it’s really important that the general public understands what’s produced, what we grow right here in Thunder Bay and how we are able to use some of the bounties that God has provided us as farmers here and use it to help the those who haven’t got enough.”

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario

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