May 30th, 31st, 2007

Local student using project to help others
Students at the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program have been producing business plan projects for four years, but 10th-grader Felicia Schmutz is doing something rather unique for her venture. She developed a non-profit business called “Adopt-a-Doll,” where she sells hand-made Guatemalan dolls—complete with an adoption certificate. And the money she raises from selling the two-inch dolls for $2 each will go towards building shelters for residents in Guatemala. “I really like helping people and knowing it’s for a good cause,” Schmutz said, noting many families in Guatemala sleep and work in the same shelter. “There’s smoke from cooking in the same room they are sleeping in,” she noted. “And some get lung disease. . . .

Banks shy away from affordable housing loans
Canada’s charter banks won’t provide mortgages to low-income families who buy homes through Langford’s affordable housing program, the News Gazette has learned. Nor, until now, would credit unions. But the $160,000 new three-bedroom, single-family homes are selling anyway, with mortgage brokers finding other lenders for people who qualify for the homes — Langford residents whose total family income is less than $60,000 annually and with combined assets worth less than $50,000. About a dozen houses have already been sold under the program, launched in 2004, that requires developers to put 10 per cent of the homes they build into an affordable housing pool for residents who otherwise could not afford to buy a house. The home prices are less than half the actual real estate value.

Has big business turned organics into 'yuppy chow'?
Organic food is being taken over by big business, marketed as "yuppie chow" for the privileged, and increasingly packaged with as little concern for the environment as conventional food production, says a York University academic researcher. In a paper to be presented on Friday at Canada's largest gathering of social sciences scholars, Irena Knezevic says that most of the major organic brands on the North American market are now owned by large corporations such as ConAgra, Cargill, Kraft, Coca Cola and Pepsi. She says their products - along with those sold by retail giants such as Loblaws and Wal-Mart - are turning organic agriculture into product brands that are becoming "a marketing tool more so than an assurance of quality, let alone an assurance of a fair and sustainable production process."

Grain co-ops now history
Soon they will be gone. Practically every vestige of the big farmer-owned grain co-operatives on the Canadian prairies is being reduced to historical footnotes. Saskatchewan Wheat Pool said Tuesday it has been successful in its offer to acquire Agricore United. Approximately, 82 per cent of AU common shares were tendered to the Pool by the expiry date of the offer. The minimum tender was 75 per cent. The payment of $20.50 per AU common share will be flowing to shareholders shortly. The Pool also purchased about 49 per cent of AU preferred shares and payment for those is $24 per share in cash, plus accrued and unpaid dividends.