In 1996, the Westlock Committee of the Canadian Food Grains Bank conceived the idea of attempting the World Record Harvest. This was to take place on a rented quarter section of land. The true objective of the project, however, was to raise awareness of the Canadian Food Grains Bank’s cause, which was to raise money for a water diversion project in Ethiopia. Not only did this challenge succeed for those in need, but it also brought a community together for a good cause, helping all those concerned.
Unfortunately, the world record harvest did not come to fruition in 1996, nor did it in 1997, due mainly to poor weather conditions. Every year that the record harvest was cancelled, the local community persevered and did not lose hope. They were determined to reach their initial goal.
In the spring of 1998, the seeds were sown for the next attempt on a quarter section of land rented from Marvin Marks. The harrowing was done by Alex and Albert Miller, and Steven and Walter Miller did the seeding. Over the next few months the committee waited with much anticipation. It was a dry year in 1998, so it looked like the world record attempt would finally become a reality.
During the week of the harvest, Albert and Alex Miller swathed the quarter section of wheat in preparation for the harvest. However, on the day before the attempt, it rained. Once again it looked like the world record harvest would have to be postponed for another year. Luckily though, the swaths dried quickly and the rain wasn’t enough to stop the combines from rolling the next day.
In the early hours of Friday, August 21st 1998, a total of 68 combines headed towards Westlock to complete the world record harvest. Farmers, volunteers, committee members and spectators came to Westlock to witness and participate in the world record breaking event. Everyone involved was committed to a much larger cause than just combining a field; they were there to help provide for the less fortunate than themselves.
Over 400 volunteers helped ensure that this event got off without a hitch. They were there to direct traffic, flip burgers, make signs, organize media, fly helicopters, take photographs, and to drive trucks and buses. The world record harvest wouldn’t have been a success without all of the volunteers’ time and effort.
The harvest raised $50,000 and was matched with government grants that would generate $250,000 for the water diversion project in Ethiopia. The local volunteers who made the world record harvest a success also gave a community on the other side of the world the ability to grow their own grain; the water diversion project allowed Ethiopian farmers from a community of 3,000 people to grow and sustain their own wheat crops.
The Westlock Food Grains Bank Committee consisted, in 1998, of:
Albert Miller, Bernard Wiese, Bill Siegle, Leo Seguin, Walter Miller, Les Dunford, Dave Felstad, George McMillan.