A shipment of oats is received by Prairie Oat Growers board member Tony Van Rootselaar, PREDA chair Carolyn Kolebaba and M.D. of Spirit River deputy reeve Nick Van Rootselaar. The oats will be distributed by Peace Region Economic Development Alliance municipalities free of charge to promote the health benefits of eating oats.Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Over 15,000 pounds of oats are being given to Peace Country residents in upcoming weeks, as part of an initiative to promote the health values of eating oats.

The initiative has been undertaken by Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA), Peace Region Economic Development Alliance (PREDA), Grain Millers, M.D. of Spirit River, and Save-On Foods. The combined efforts of POGA, Save-On Foods, and Grain Millers has allowed for oats to be produced, packaged, and shipped to the participating communities.

“The Peace region has repeatedly proven itself as a leader in in quality oat production,” says PREDA executive director Dan Dibbelt.

“Many municipalities in the northwest have looked to attract an oat processing facility to this region,” he adds. “We felt that distributing and encouraging local oat consumption and working with POGA would highlight this region for a future oat processing opportunity.”

Dibbelt explains that M.D. of Spirit River Reeve Tony Van Rootselaar is also on the POGA board and knew that the association had been looking to find a partner organization to work with to distribute oats. The initiative is to promote the health benefits of eating oats as part of a balanced diet.

“PREDA chair Carolyn Kolebaba thought this would be a great initiative for the Peace Region,” says Dibbelt. “M.D. of Spirit River agreed to be the coordinator, warehouse and shipper for the oats and so the partnership was born.”

Dibbelt says that next to canola and wheat, oats are the most commonly grown crop in the northwest region of the province.

“Almost 200,000 acres of land inventory in the northwest is in oats,” says Dibbelt. “That’s about one-quarter of Alberta’s oats acres, so we’re big producers of oats.”

As a result of this initiative, 7,500 bags of oats will be distributed to 27 PREDA municipalities for free distribution to their ratepayers. This includes residents in Big Lakes County, Northern Sunrise County, the M.D. of Smoky River, and Falher.

“The northwest region needs to support initiatives that put us in the spotlight so we can encourage the Alberta government to create a northern agricultural corridor and spur on value-added agriculture industries in the northwest,” says Dibbelt.

“This is our first run at something like this, but we are very open to pursuing other similar opportunities. Showing a willingness to work with agricultural organizations and commercial and retail suppliers helps to put this region on the map for future development,” he adds.

Agricultural producers and the industry is vital to the economic stability of communities across the region, and Dibbelt says initiatives that highlight the importance of agriculture are always a priority.

“PREDA will always step forward when there is an opportunity to better the Peace region and offer value to the people of our communities,” says Kolebaba. “There are many studies that show the Peace region grows the best oats in Canada, so what better way to promote that than giving out free samples.”

If you are a ratepayer of participating municipalities and would like to receive a free bag of oats, please visit your local administration building where the oats will be made available.

By Emily Plihal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 13, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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