Sunflowers are often associated with happiness and positivity.
In embodying that message and looking to enact change, a Thamesford, Ont., couple have launched a sunflower fundraiser to end world hunger.
After growing a variety of crops in their half-acre field over the years, Alex and Florence Steele decided to try something different this year.
“We’ve farmed our whole life and when our kids were growing up, we had pumpkins in this area that helped pay their way through university,” Alex said. “So, this year we thought, kind of at the last minute, we should grow sunflowers and thought we could do something with them.”
The pair said they’re opening up a small field for the public to take photos or pick a bouquet for a donation to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“One of the things that we firmly believe in is the Canadian Foodgrains Bank,” Florence told Global News. “For the last 20 years, we’ve supported their work. We know people within it and this fundraiser is something we can do, and we will do to help.”
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The humanitarian organization is a partnership of 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies working together with a mission to end global hunger.
“It’s these church members that actually work overseas in the countries where our programs are operated,” said Henry Reinders, Ontario regional representative for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“About 60 to 65 per cent of our work is providing sources of food to people who are in refugee camps and other locations where they may have lost their crops or can’t grow crops,” he explained. “The remaining 30 to 35 per cent of our work is in what we call long-term response programs, and that’s helping farmers in these countries improve their agricultural production, agricultural techniques, maybe introducing them to some new crops that they might grow.”
Reinder told Global News that after hearing about Alex and Florence’s idea for a sunflower fundraiser, he was “quite excited.”
“Sunflowers are beautiful this time of year and many people have an affinity for them, and I just thought, ‘Gee, what a really neat way to engage the public and to involve members of the area’ in purchasing sunflowers for the purpose of supporting the Foodgrains Bank,” he said. “It’s a little bit different than many of our growing projects, but this is a little bit more hands-on on so I think that’s really exciting.”
According to Reinder, all donations collected through the fundraiser will go toward programming for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“Whether it ends up in a country in Africa helping to provide a family resources or access to food, or go into helping a farmer improve his production, it will certainly be used where it’s most needed to help people overcome the effects of hunger,” he said.
Florence said that “sunflowers are also representative of Ukraine,” which further sparked their interest in putting on the fundraiser.
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With people already showing up to their farm to see the sunflowers, she highlights the overwhelming sense of happiness that the fundraiser is creating in visitors.
“They just thank us for growing them and comment on what a great idea it is. If we can enact change in the process, that’s all the money in the world,” Florence said.
Alex added that “Florence has also been delivering bouquets to some nearby people who can’t leave their homes and it just perks them right up.”
As part of their “semi-retirement package,” the pair hope “people enjoy the sunflowers like we have.”
The Steele farm is located at 195692 Oxford County Rd. 119, north of Thamesford and south of Kintore. They also hope to have the fundraiser last until the end of September.
Reinder said they’re aiming to raise around $1,000 through the fundraiser.
“If we could raise that out of this, that would be certainly amazing, and then those funds are eligible for some government fund matching as well, which can make it grow even further,” he said, adding a special thank you to Alex and Florence.
“They hope that they may be able to continue this in another year or make it even bigger and better, and I just hope that the community does come out and support the amazing work that they’re doing,” he said.
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