When a beloved member of the Boissevain community died unexpectedly earlier this month, people quickly banded together for a fundraiser in his honour.
The Boissevain Morton Whitewater Grow Project’s acre sponsorship effort is a fitting tribute for Bradley (Buck) Neufeld, longtime friend and project chair Darren Peters said.
A farmer by trade, Neufeld would join a group of several community stewards each year in helping harvest the charity field, which supports the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
"This has always been home for Buck, and farming was one of his prime loves in life, and the other thing that he always cared about was neighbours and looking after other people, so that’s where this project suited him very well," Peters said.
"Buck was always willing to help out another neighbour, even when he maybe should have been doing his own stuff — he was generous that way."
Neufeld, 37, died in a motor vehicle rollover on May 7 and is survived by wife Jo-Anne and their three children, aged nine to 14.
His obituary also calls for donations to be made in his memory to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
The outpouring of support for both Neufeld and the charitable harvest project has been heartwarming to see, Peters said.
"He was very respected in the community, and I think that’s been extremely evident over the last week and a half, so I think that’s a testament to the life he lived," he said.
"I’m happy to see the support, and it’s a really nice gesture on their part in light of this tragedy, and I hope that we can also show support to his family that’s obviously in the midst of a terrible time."
Neufeld was a jokester by nature, Peters said, and is was known for always keeping things light.
"We all knew him," Municipality of Boissevain-Morton Head of Council Judy Swanson said, crediting Neufeld with being "well-respected and loved" in the area.
"Most people grew up with him and knew him ... It’s really heart-wrenching for the whole community."
This year’s Boissevain Morton Whitewater Grow Project consists of 300 acres of wheat, which member Mitch Bohrn said typically raises between $50,000 and $100,000 toward the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
This national organization, in turn, uses the funds to help establish food security in the developing world.
The acre sponsorship effort was Bohrn’s brainchild, and the funds raised are in addition to whatever they’re able to raise through the harvest itself.
They’d typically hold other fundraisers throughout the year, but he said the pandemic forced them to try something less hands-on. A $50 donation allows people to put their name on an acre and become eligible for a prize package.
News of Neufeld’s death led various people to pledge their acre in his honour, with whatever prize it might secure going toward his three children.
This community support for one of their own is in keeping with what the annual effort is all about, Bohrn said — supporting others in need.
The hope is that government health rules will allow farmers to get together for a community gathering come harvest time, which usually sees several combines harvesting the field together.
Last year’s effort included the combines but no community dinner and celebration, and the 2019 effort was rained out.
This year’s acres have been fully seeded, and while Bohrn said conditions are a bit dry, there was enough moisture in the ground to get them started. The hope now is for rain in the near future.
For more information on this year’s effort and how to support it, visit their Facebook group page, "BMW Grow Project."
As of last week’s print deadline, the acre sponsorship effort had raised $3,400 of its $15,000 fundraising goal, with numerous pledges made in Neufeld’s honour.
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB