World Record Harvest

The World Record Harvest took place in Westlock, Alberta, in August 1998. It was part of the Westlock Growing Project and was held to raise funds and awareness as well as to have a lot of fun. In just 15 minutes and 43 seconds, 65 combines and over 400 volunteers threshed 160 acres (6,322 bushels) of wheat.

The proceeds of the harvest were matched by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the Canadian Government Aid Agency and used to provide grain for food-for-work programs in the Afar Region of Ethiopia. These programs meet the short-term food needs for the local population as they help build irrigation system infrastructure that will allow them to attain long-term food security. As a result of such irrigation projects, the Afar are no longer nomadic herders living in uncertainty. They have settled into self-sustaining communities and are better able to feed themselves while ensuring their children are educated and they have access to health care and other services.

The Day of the World Record Harvest

The World Record Harvest was conceived and planned for 1996, but had to be cancelled for two years in a row because of poor weather. It looked like the third year would meet the same fate, but the weather cleared and the project finally got underway.

Hundreds of volunteers took on different tasks: crowd control, safety on and off the field, food preparation, busing people to and from the site, concession, setting up bleachers and chairs. The crowd was expected to be in the thousands and it was; about 3,000 people attended. Over 65 combines were expected plus 12 B-trains, advertisers, the media, helicopters, airplanes, and more. 

In just 15 minutes, 65 combines and over 400 volunteers threshed 6,322 bushels) of wheat.

The harvest went smoothly although one combine did break down in the field. It served its purpose, drawing attention to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and to the poorest of the poor through the financing of an irrigation-based development project in Ethiopia that would feed over 10,000 people. The $50,000 raised was matched four to one by the Canadian government for a total of $250,000, which more than covered the costs of the project. The harvest and the cause it supports received very positive media coverage from CNN and CTV, as well as print media from many parts of Canada, the U.S., and even Germany and China.

World Record Harvest was a feat to pull together. It is a testament to the spirit of generosity that underlies the Westlock community, and shows what can be accomplished when people decide to work together to support those in need.

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