Red Deer County is calling on the Alberta government to support better insurance protection for market gardens.
Some market gardens in Red Deer County were hammered by hail — more than once in some cases — this past summer.
Financial losses were significant and highlighted that garden markets are not eligible for the same types of federally and provincially subsidized hail insurance that major crop producers can draw on in times of emergency.
“I’m 100 per cent behind the success of our market gardens,” said Mayor Jim Wood.
Besides providing food and the opportunity for U-pick operations, market gardens play a big role in agricultural tourism, he said.
County Coun. Lonny Kennett operates Rare Farms, a 2.5-acre market garden about six km east of Red Deer, and was among those who suffered significant hail losses this summer.
Because of his connection to the industry, Kennett excused himself from any participation in the debate and decided to send a letter to the government urging more market garden help.
He was grateful for the support from his colleagues.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “Right now, as a market gardener, we have no option other than high-priced insurance that basically takes all the profit out of it.”
A hailstorm hit his farm hard earlier this summer, destroying plants and badly bruising apples and pears. However, he has been busy picking his other fruits and vegetables, including saskatoons, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and broccoli.
“I lost one set of planting,” he said, adding he lost $1,000 worth of seed. “I had no way to recover that money. That’s money that’s gone forever. Luckily, the rest of plantings were young enough that it didn’t hurt them or set them back.”
Coun. Connie Huelsman said she will encourage a resolution in support of better insurance from the Agriculture Services Board, which is meeting on Thursday, “because this has affected a lot of municipalities.”
Coun. Dana Depalme, who farms and raises cattle about 10 km southwest of Red Deer, has been a vocal supporter of getting more financial protection for market gardeners.
“We need to help our residents and everyone who has been impacted by this,” she said on Tuesday.
In a report to council, county agricultural services manager Cody McIntosh said “market Gardens and U-Picks are becoming the face of agriculture to the urban public.”
When a hailstorm destroys fruit and vegetable production at their favourite u-pick, it gives people insight into farm economics and why produce prices might have increased following hailstorms or other crop-destroying weather.
“Issues like market garden insurance impact local pricing and availability which connects the non-agricultural public to the concerns of the agriculture industry around them,” said McIntosh.