Strawberry picking at The Jungle Farm was pushed back a few weeks this year due to cooler temperatures. (Photo contributed)

Cool weather and hail impact central Alberta farms

Hoping for a warmer fall

Central Alberta farmers escaped the wind and hail that decimated Taber corn crops earlier this week, but local growers have still had their share of heartbreak this season.

Elna Edgar, at Edgar Farms southwest of Innisfail, said peas on her land took a beating from hail in July despite separating the 36-acre crop into three fields.

“They’re five miles apart and one was totally destroyed, one was partially destroyed and one’s perfect,” Edgar said.

“The most disheartening thing is I’ve done absolutely everything to the best of my ability. I’ve been working on these peas since April 9.

“We’re out there all the time working away, trying to do the very best job we can, because I know if I’ve got an amazing product, the customers will buy.”

Peas also got a late start due to the cooler weather and wet fields this summer. They are fantastic and sweet now, but it’s been a frustrating year, she said.

“The weather is just beating us up.”

She said beans also started late, with some early crops wiped out by hail.

“We’ll pick until we get another hail storm or a frost, which ever comes first,” Edgar said with a laugh.

“Who knows in this weather? But all farmers deal with weather. That’s what we do.”

Rod Bradshaw, at Beck Farms southwest of Innisfail, said farming is definitely a job for optimists.

“You take the good with the bad. It’s a little frustrating,” Bradshaw said.

“I’ve reminded a few people we had a killing frost in the middle of August in 1992. Are we due? I hope not,” he said.

He said July hail hammered some of his vegetables.

“Early seeded carrots did well. They took the hail a lot better than some of the later seeded ones. Some of the later seeded ones were small enough that it killed them, so the later seeded crops will be thin, but it’s really tough to know until you get in and start harvesting them.”

He said it’s been cool and his farm received less moisture this season.

“We grow brussels sprouts and they should be about two or three feet tall, and they’re about a foot tall. They’re not going to get much taller than that, so whether they’ll be saleable is an issue.”

He said a lot of the cereal crops have changed for the better in the past month.

“They’re looking really good from the road. Hopefully, when we get in there with the combine, we’ll get what we see from the road.”

But canola is still blooming, which it shouldn’t by this point in the season.

“This year, I planted it right next to my house, so every day I look at it, and I’m going, ‘Come on, get out of the ground. Come on, grow.’

“I couldn’t not look at it,” Bradshaw said.

Leona Staples, at The Jungle Farm south of Penhold, said hail mostly avoided her farm, but cooler temperatures pushed the start of strawberry picking back 10 to 15 days to July 25.

“Everything has shifted back,” Staples said.

“We see beautiful flowers out in our pumpkin patch. We know some of them have pollinated. But how much are we going to get? It depends on what temperatures we get in August and into September.”

She said on the bright side, cooler-weather crops like lettuce, spinach and radishes are happy and aren’t bolting as quickly in the field.

Normal weather seems to be a thing of the past, she said.

“We used to say this is what we would kind of expect. I don’t know what ‘kind of expect’ is anymore,” Staples said.

During Alberta Open Farm Days, Aug. 17 and 18, several central Alberta farms will open their gates to visitors.

Two Red Deer restaurants — Westlake Grill and Boulevard Restaurant + Lounge — are taking part in Alberta on the Plate, a celebration of Alberta Local Food Week until Aug. 18.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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