‘We should not be hungry right here’: Sask. farmer donates 25 tonnes of peas to Regina Meals Financial institution

A south Saskatchewan farmer has donated a truckload of his crop to the Regina Food Bank to assist those who need it most.

The 25 tonnes of split peas are a portion of what Ken Tatarliov grew this season at Surprise Valley Farms, located near the Montana border about 145 kilometres south of Regina.

“We shouldn’t be hungry here in Canada in this day and age,” Tatarliov told CBC News in an interview.

The seed of the idea was planted a few years ago as COVID-19 continued to run wild across Canada.

Tatarliov said he repeatedly heard about exhausted health-care workers, the isolation caused by the virus, the pain of losing loved ones and the shortages of basic goods like medical supplies and food.

“It just kind of all kind of piled up on me here and I got thinking, you know, I can’t change the medical side of what I’ve been looking at, but maybe I can make a small difference on the food side of it,” he said.

Tatarliov began reaching out to organizations like Farm Credit Canada to find out who could benefit the most from his donation. That led him to the Regina Food Bank.

The 25 tonnes is roughly 20 per cent of his pea crop, according to Tatarliov.

He said any amount of money he lost due to the donation is made up through his own sense of personal pride.

“I’m sitting here with half a dozen grain bins full of food and, and like I said before I can survive. I can survive just fine without that one load of peas,” he said.

Soon after getting in touch with the food bank, he filled up a truck with split peas to make the donation. 

“We call it ‘farm to kitchen’ and it’s extremely helpful when Saskatchewan and the [agriculture] sector steps up,” said David Froh, vice president with the Regina Food Bank.

“Everyone has something to give. It might be product, it might be time, it might be money, it might be a connection to someone that works in an [agriculture] sort of company that could help out a food bank.”

David Froh, left, vice-president of the Regina Food Bank, poses for a photo with Ken Tatarliov, owner of Suprise Valley Farms. (Regina Food Bank)

The Regina Food Bank distributes distributes 13,000 pounds of food every day and in recent years has seen a shift in the demographics of those it serves.

One of the biggest groups of new users is people who are fully employed, but are just having a difficult time making ends meet as a result of inflation, the food bank has said.

There is also now a consistent need for the services the organization provides, rather than an ebb and flow throughout the year. 

Froh said receiving large donations directly from a food producer is uncommon, but always appreciated.

The food bank has partnered with AGT Foods Regina, which is helping to process the large quantity of peas.

They’ll be processed and then distributed to food banks across southern Saskatchewan.

“Probably a lot of split pea soup will be made,” Froh said. “Some of it will be exchanged for pasta and rice that will go into hampers, but it will also support thing like our school food program.”

Tatarliov believes there are plenty of farmers and food producers out there who would be willing to donate a portion of what they produce to help those who need help.

He said that he was cautious about publicizing his donation. After 44 years of farming, he didn’t want make the story about him.

However, he hopes that sharing the story will inspire other farmers and food producers to donate.

“If you’re down to deciding on whether you’re going to cover your rent, and in order to cover your rent you’re going to cut back on your food bill, man, that’s that’s that’s not the Canada that I live in,” Tatarliov said.

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