Here’s an alternative fundraising idea: volunteers from Allan, Saskatchewan seed and harvest Town-owned land to raise money for the Town’s Recreation Department. Here’s a look at how this year’s community harvest went, earlier this week.

Lindsay Nordmarken, the Recreation Director at the Town of Allan, Saskatchewan, is excited. With an August of hot weather, harvest is about two weeks ahead of schedule for this farming community east of Saskatoon. That isn’t usually something that matters to a Recreation Director, but it’s HUGE for Nordmarken. Like many small prairie towns, Allan owns farmland. Unlike many small prairie towns, this land is used to raise crops — by volunteers — with all the proceeds going to the Recreation Department.

Those proceeds help Nordmarken provide better facilities and programming for the 650 residents in the town.

This is the second year the Town of Allan has been doing this. The land had been rented out since the municipality purchased in in 2013, but when the lease came to an end three years ago, the Town Council wondered if it could somehow become a community farming project to raise money for the Recreation Department. The fundraising concept had been successfully undertaken in some other Saskatchewan communities and Nordmarken was charged with determining the feasibility of doing this in Allan.

Nordmarken started asking for help and hands shot up. She needed farmers to plant the crop, take it off and get the fruits of their labour hauled it away to market. She needed helpers to reward their work with a picnic lunches – making potato and pasta salad, flipping burgers, baking a cake, making ice tea — and setting it all up for them once they were finished. Again, the hands shot up.  

“In the grand scheme of things I’ve done very little,” Nordmarken insists. “Allan has the best volunteers.  When they are passionate about an idea or a project, it doesn’t take long for things to get done.”

On Monday, August 24th, the field was ready for harvest. By 9:00 a.m., a group of farmers converged with their combines to take off 3,300 pounds of yellow peas from the land adjacent to the Town’s ball diamond and 9-hole golf course. By 10:30 a.m., the first load of peas were off to market.

Just short of noon, the harvest was complete. Here’s a gallery of images from the harvest.

Yellow Peas: Bumper Crop

In addition to the farmers’ contribution of time, gas, use of their equipment and seed, an agronomist also volunteered her time to research and recommend what crop should be grown. Last year, wheat was grown on the field, but an early snow meant that crop wasn’t taken off until this spring. The delayed harvest, and quality of the grain, meant less money for the Rec Department, but it still brought in around $16,000. This year’s crop is known to be a “cash crop” and Nordmarken and all the volunteers are hopeful it will be.

“We don’t know what it will bring until we get the cheque from the grain elevator,” she explains. “Last year’s wheat crop was sold as a feed grain so we didn’t make as much as we would have if it had been harvested in the fall. This year, fingers crossed, the yellow peas will be a bumper crop!”

The proceeds will be split into three funds for the Recreation Department: the sustainability fund, the operations fund and the programming fund.

The Town of Allan has several assets to maintain. There’s a park, a 9-hole golf course with sand greens, a ball diamond, an indoor ice arena with a 4-sheet curling rink — and an outdoor pool. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the pool wasn’t able to open this summer and it’s unclear if their sand-based arena or curling rink will be able to open this fall. Nordmarken is hopeful, but is awaiting direction from the Rink Board.

In the meantime, Nordmarken is working with the parks and rec committee to bring activities to Allan, despite the social distancing challenges brought on by COVID-19. Last weekend, for example, cars gathered in a parking lot for BINGO.

“The folks drove up and collected their cards, dabbers and candy. We had everybody set the radio in their car to 88.3 – I had a transmitter for that frequency – so they could hear the numbers as they were being called. BINGO’s were called when someone would blow their horn! It was a lot of fun.”

You can hear how that played out here: