Two Lethbridge companies are helping lead the way when it comes to Alberta’s goal for more value-added industries in the province’s agricultural sector.
That was the word from Alberta agricultural minister, Verlyn Olson, as he addressed the media in a year-end teleconference Thursday morning.
Olson mentioned Lethbridge Egg Processing Innovations Co-operative (EPIC) and Lethbridge Biogas as two facilities he has toured, which he touted as examples of where the industry can go in the future.
“Agriculture these days is a highly-complex, very science-based industry,” he said, and added research and innovation will be keys to help open other facilities throughout Alberta.
Olson highlighted the EPIC facility, which uses egg shells and egg membranes, and turns them into products like paint and diet supplements, as an example of how innovation in the agricultural industry can add value and create markets for products.
“We need to push the envelope and find better ways to do things. We can’t afford to stand still.”
The industry in general is doing anything but standing still in Alberta, he added, as third-quarter numbers point to farm cash receipts of $9.1 billion in Alberta, the highest in Canada, according to Olson, which is up two per cent from the first nine months of last year. He added principle field crop production has totalled 27 million tonnes, which is up 26 per cent from 2012 and 37 per cent higher than Alberta’s 10-year average.
Urgent call for toys
Nearly 1,700 local children are counting on the Salvation Army in Lethbridge to provide them with presents for Christmas Day.
And the Toys for Tots program needs the public’s help with a final push this weekend and early next week in order to reach this year’s goal, says Captain Raelene Russell of the Lethbridge Salvation Army.
She said the 1,700-number of toy bags is higher than average, which shows why there is a need. There is also an urgent call for toys for boys and girls between the ages of six and 12.
“And sooner rather than later. I know that our community is so incredibly generous in donating. But Christmas comes early for us,” Russell said.
“We’re already finished by the end of next week, so if they wait for Christmas to do it — that’s great and the toys won’t go bad; we’ll use them next year — but the need is for this year. The thought would be: if people are doing their own Christmas shopping over the next couple of days, this weekend in particular, to think of us and drop them off by Monday.”
Families will be picking up their toy hampers by the end of the week at the Salvation Army’s Christmas Distribution Centre.
Before then, new and unwrapped toys can be dropped off at: Toys R Us, Toy Mountain at Centre Village Mall, the toy chest outside Winners at Park Place Shopping Centre, the Salvation Army Christmas Distribution Centre at 605 3 Ave. S., as well as several other locations.
Snow delights skiers
City drivers may have already had enough with the recent winter conditions.
But the sentiment is different for those heading off to the mountains, including Castle Mountain Resort, which opened last weekend.
“We’re so excited to get it open and get everything up and running,” said Donna Murray-Clark, Castle’s new director of marketing. “We’ve had, probably, the most (snow) that we’ve had for awhile before Christmas, so it’s looking super amazing.”
Fernie Alpine Resort, meanwhile, opened two weeks ago and has a 146-cm base, and Whitefish Mountain Resort at Big Mountain had a 148-cm base when it opened last weekend.
Pass Powderkeg in the Crowsnest Pass has been busy preparing for the new season as well, said general manager Dave Morrison, and should open on Dec. 20 or Dec. 21. They will make their official decision on Monday.
“We’ve got a lot of natural fill on the ground, so we’ll be opening with very good conditions,” Morrison said.
“We just want to take advantage of this cold weather right now and get the rest of our snow made. We’ve had really good conditions all week for snowmaking. We’ve got a bit more to make, which we’ll be doing here over the next few days, and then there’s a few days of mountain set up once we finish snowmaking.”
Castle Mountain, which has a 71-cm base at mid mountain, had a “Sneak Peak” weekend on Dec. 7 and 8. Murray-Clark also said the cold conditions have been ideal for grooming.
Snow budget OK
There’s been plenty of snow, and lots of equipment clearing Lethbridge streets.
But that’s not expected to put the city over budget on its snowfighting efforts, officials say.
“Unless it snows a lot more before Christmas,” transportation manager Darwin Juell predicts costs for 2013 will be close to the budgeted amount, $3.03 million.
By the start of December, he adds, just half that amount had been spent on snowfighting over the year’s first 11 months.
The recent blizzard, dropping about a foot of snow on most parts of the city, was “pretty extreme.”
There are five contracted grader crews and three snow blower teams on the job. Though city staff and contracted crews were making good progress, transportation operations manager Lee Perkins says city “snowfighters” had to start over again after the latest snowfall.
Food banks join forces
Deliveries have already begun, with more than 1,200 Lethbridge-area families hoping for Christmas hampers this month. The city’s three food banks have joined forces once again and they’re asking for additional help from Lethbridge residents and organizations.
Such basic foods as canned soup, cereal, peanut butter or flour are always welcome.
But officials at the Interfaith Food Bank, the Lethbridge Food Bank and the Salvation Army say seasonal items like hams, poultry and cranberry sauce are needed as well.
And for maximum impact, cash donations allow all three to buy what’s missing each day.
For its annual toy bundles, the Salvation Army is also asking for donations of new, unwrapped items for distribution later in the month.
Food bank clients, meanwhile, are urged to register with their accustomed agency as soon as possible.The Lethbridge agencies’ combined website — http://www.ChristmasHope.ca — provides more details about their joint Christmas project.
Bins being retired
Seven years ago, they replaced steel garbage bins which had become obsolete.
But now the city’s large (1.5-cubic-yard) plastic bins behind four-plexes and townhouses are being retired as well. City officials say they’re gradually being replaced by individual garbage carts for each address.
In 2006, officials told city council, the city’s last truck designed for steel bins suffered a transmission failure and could not be repaired. But the city had collection trucks capable of handling a variety of plastic bins, so large plastic bins were substituted. Some of those large bins are now cracking and breaking, Councillor Joe Mauro reported, and residents are concerned.
The smaller, family-sized bins can also be damaged, council was reminded. If one needs to be replaced, residents can call 403-320-3850 for service.