Edgar Farms hard hit by hail storms

Doug Edgar has seen 46 crops at his Innisfail-area farm and never faced a worse hail season.

Doug Edgar has seen 46 crops at his Innisfail-area farm and never faced a worse hail season.

Edgar Farms has been hit five times this season, beginning in May, and last Thursday’s hail storm was the worst.

Earlier hail setbacks led to half a dozen workers being let go and he had to lay off another dozen after the last storm, which devastated 70 acres of vegetables.

Doug didn’t want to put a dollar figure on the damage — “a lot” is all he would say.

Edgar Farms is a well-known and award-winning local provider of asparagus, peas, beans and rhubarb.

The value-added nature of their produce means insurance doesn’t come close to making up for the losses. He points out a pea pod that has 10 per cent damage, is still a total write-off as far as selling it is concerned.

Like most farmers, Edgar leans on a philosophical attitude when faced with adversity.

“You just suck it up and get on with life,” he said. “It’s not just us alone, it’s other families too.”

Elna Edgar, Doug’s wife, said the damage can be seen all through their area.

“There are fields out here that look like they’ve been combined or heavy-harrowed. There’s nothing left in some of the fields.

“There are trees out there where there’s not a leaf left on them.”

Edgar Farms store remains open. Asparagus season ended in June, so pickled and frozen asparagus is available, along with Angus beef, preserves and pies.

Based on the claims pouring into the Agriculture Farm Services Corp.’s (AFSC) offices, plenty of other families have been affected.

“We have 539 inspections generated out of that night,” said Brian Tainsh, from the corporation’s Lacombe office.

AFSC is a provincial Crown corporation that provides farmers, agribusinesses and other small businesses with loans, crop insurance and farm income disaster assistance.

Hail damage has extended from Red Deer to Airdrie, with claims also coming in from the Strathmore, Olds and Three Hills areas.

“Basically that Highway 2 corridor was hit pretty good.”

While the claim numbers are high, even more came in following the July 17 and 19 hail storms that hit locations across the province.

“Throughout the province those days gave us more claims. They were spread all over Alberta those nights.

“We’ve got lots of hail here. Since mid-July, just about every day there is a storm somewhere in the province.”

About 100 inspectors are out checking fields for damage. They are working on the July 17 and 19 storms currently. Some farmers had two or three storms hit their fields.

Typically, inspectors wait 10 days before going out to the field to better assess the lasting damage.

The random nature of hail storms is apparent when talking to other area producers.

“In the immediate area, we’re sitting pretty good,” said Terry Young, who farms near Joffre. “There were no issues at all this year. We’ve had the odd storm.”

He’d heard there was more damage and golf ball-sized hail further to the east between Joffre and Delburne.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com