Red Deer County councillor, farmer and rancher Dana Depalme hopes to throw the municipality’s weight behind calls to extend crop hail insurance to market gardens.
Depalme farms and raises cattle about 10 kms southwest of Red Deer and was saddened to see the devastating losses this summer’s hailstorms have caused, especially the Aug. 1 storm that hammered The Jungle Farm and other farms in central Alberta.
That storm, which produced a Canadian record-sized hailstone in Markerville only a few kilometres west of The Jungle Farm, owned by Blaine and Leona Staples. Hail smashed windows and pounded 20 acres of strawberries and took a toll on saskatoons, cucumbers, leeks, beets, onions and even grain fields.
That storm just missed Depalme’s farm, where she grows canola, wheat, feed corn and barley and raises 175 cows and purebred bulls. If she had been hit, hail insurance would have covered some of her losses.
But to her surprise that coverage is not available to market gardens, such as The Jungle Farm and Steel Pony Farm, just south of Red Deer, which was hammered by an early July hailstorm.
The market garden industry has been lobbying for years to have access to the kind of insurance coverage larger producers have to no avail.
Depalme said she spoke with Blaine Staples about what they were going through and was determined to help.
“I talked to Blaine and said this is what council is supposed to, is advocate. I said, ‘What can I do to help?’”
Depalme raised the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting, where other councillors supported sending a letter to the provincial government urging it to help market gardens.
“Sometimes it’s a little easier for us to talk to MLAs than it is for them.”
Before drafting a letter, Depalme plans to speak to market gardeners to get more specifics about what they would like to see so that can be referenced in the county’s letter. She expects to come back with some more details at the next council meeting.
Depalme said she was not aware — and suspects many other producers do not know — that market gardens do not have the same kind of coverage as bigger operations.
“In all honesty, if we couldn’t ensure these crops I don’t think I could farm. You can’t control the weather,” she said. “I don’t think I could do the risk without knowing I have a little bit of a safety net.
“We’ve had to claim before. You don’t get 100 per cent. But you’re not going to go broke either having the insurance.”
She recently drove to Innisfail on the C&E Trail and saw the swath of destruction had cut through corn fields.
“If you drive up that road, that just have sticks in the ground for their corn. So, I know how devastating it can be.”
The Jungle Farm owners are encouraging their many customers to email or send letters to the provincial and federal agriculture ministers, Alberta’s premier or their MLAs.