JRI backs work on Sask. landmark barn

Winnipeg grain company James Richardson International (JRI) has put up a major pledge to rebuild the oldest major farm structure in Saskatchewan.

JRI on Wednesday pledged $50,000 toward the Bell Barn Society of Indian Head‘s $1 million reconstruction and site development project, and will pledge a further 50 cents for every dollar pledged by other grain companies operating in Saskatchewan, up to another $50,000.

The Bell Farm Barn, a round stone barn built in 1882 two km north of Indian Head, is considered to be Saskatchewan’s oldest major agricultural structure and in 2006 was listed as one of Canada’s top 10 endangered places by Heritage Canada.

Named after Major William Bell, the barn is the only structure remaining on the farmyard where Major and the Qu’Appelle Valley Farming Co. established the first corporate farm in Saskatchewan.

The society, which plans to reconstruct the barn and develop the yard site into an interpretive centre for western Canadian agriculture, completed site preparation last fall and plans to complete the entire project by the summer of 2009.

JRI’s donation puts it in the “Patron Circle” of donors to the society, which so far has raised a total of $260,000 for the project. The society has also gathered endorsements from former Saskatchewan lieutenant governor and former Liberal leader Lynda Haverstock as its honorary patron, and actor Eric Peterson (Corner Gas, Street Legal) as its honorary chairman.

“The gift of $50,000 by JRI is a tremendous boost to our fundraising efforts,” said Maurice Delage, chairman of the society’s fundraising committee, in a JRI press release. “We are hopeful that with JRI on board, other grain companies are encouraged to step forward and support our project.”

“We are confident that once others are aware of the importance of this project and the significance of Major Bell and the Bell Farm Barn to the original establishment of agriculture in Western Canada, they will accept our challenge and donate at the Patron Circle level,” JRI president Curt Vossen said in the release.

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