A year removed from the harvest from hell, the farming picture may not be heavenly — but it is a heck of a lot better.
Olds-area grain farmer Jeff Nielsen coined the hell harvest label last year after repeated snowfalls through September flattened and soaked crops just as farmers were hitting the fields with their harvesters.
So, it comes as some relief to many who make their living off the land that a long, warm fall produced ideal harvest conditions until winter telegraphed what is to come this week.
“I would say this fall was a very good fall. There is still a little bit of crop left out, and I hope this cold and snowy snap is short-lived, and we go back to some better weather,” said Nielsen.
“Overall, the quality is good. It wasn’t a bin buster by any means.
“There was a lot of hail here in central Alberta that touched quite a few areas from Calgary to Ponoka.”
Nielsen himself suffered 50 per cent losses, which will have an obvious impact on his bottom line, even with insurance.
The latest Alberta Crop Report released Friday says as of last Monday, the harvest across Alberta was two to three weeks ahead of five- and 10-year averages.
In the central region, 96.4 per cent of major crops have been harvested, well above the average over the previous five years of 64.3 per cent by this time of the season.
Fall-seeded crops are rated four per cent excellent, 83 per cent good, 11 per cent fair and two per cent poor.
For those who have a few crops left to harvest, fingers are crossed the weather will break for a few days soon to allow that to happen.
Mike Ammeter, who grows canola in the Sylvan Lake area, is among those who hopes to see a few more sunny days to get the rest of his crop off and call it a good season.
“Like they always say, ‘Don’t put your hands in the air until the puck is in the net.’ Harvest is not complete yet.
“We need a few more days. If we had a week, that would just about take care of everything.”
A few cereal crops are still standing and a neighbour’s green feed is “flat as a pancake” now because of the snow.
Overall, it is a lot better than last year, when he had just got going by this point of the season because of snowfalls similar to Friday’s, except they occurred a month earlier.
Yields have been decent, but not bumper crops, with a few exceptions.
“But it’s not bad and prices are strong, so that helps,” he said. “With what I’ve seen with quality, I’m very happy with what I’ve got in the bin so far.”
Most farmers would rather see smaller yields and better quality, than big yields and low prices, he said.
Nielsen said the good prices are part of a promising trend that has seen canola exports and income returns to farmers getting back to the levels they were at two years ago, when China banned imports from two of Canada’s bigger canola exporters.
Canada’s barley exports to China have also increased this year and prices are good for many other key export crops.
Trade issues remain with China, India and Italy, “but in the current market, we’re seeing strong prices and strong sales,” he said.
“The trend can’t stay forever, but it’s nice to see and it’s welcomed, especially this year, where we are seeing a lot of good-quality crops.”