Most central Alberta farmers can look forward to a stress-free Thanksgiving this year — compared to 2019, when many rural turkey dinners were cut short by the need to continue combining operations in snowy weather.
An estimated 80 to 90 per cent of central Alberta crops have already been harvested. This compares to only about a third of crops that were in the bin 12 months ago.
“This is one of the best falls we’ve had in quite a few years,” confirmed Justin Babcock, agricultural services manager for the County of Ponoka.
Babcock said he finished harvesting his own fields last weekend, and “I know a lot of other guys are close to done… It’s great — a relief, for sure.”
Despite a cold and wet spring seeding season, most crops have recovered and improved in quality.
“We started out two weeks behind and ended up one week ahead,” said Cody McIntosh, agriculture services manager for the County of Red Deer.
“It was a really good harvest season, with four to six weeks of warm and dry weather. It was a great stretch,” said McIntosh.
The lack of severe thunderstorms and wide-scale hail events also created “very favourable” conditions for a regional harvest that’s a week ahead of schedule, said Ryan Hallett, agricultural manager for the County of Stettler.
This was not the case in the past two out of three years, added Hallett, who recalled many central Alberta farmers did not finish harvesting until early November in 2019, with some crops left in the fields, buried under snow.
Red Deer-area farmers have reasons to be thankful this year, despite COVID-19 and a rough Alberta economy.
Yields are about 18 per cent above the five-year average in central Alberta, according to the crop report compiled by the Alberta Agriculture Financial Services Corp. and the province.
Southern Alberta fared even better, with yields that are 42 per cent above average, while northwestern Alberta crops were hampered by rains and were nine to 19 per cent below average, said Ken Handford, product development analyst for the corporation.
The quality of malt barley and some other crops has been described as excellent, said Hallett. With prices looking up for canola, wheat and barley, he described it as a “stellar” year for many farmers.
McIntosh believes this year’s bumper crops are the best in the past four or five years.