Photo taken at Belbutte, Sask., near Spiritwood. (Submitted by Evelyn Johnson)

Snow on the prairies halts the harvest

Snow, unseasonably early, has delayed the harvest and left many farmers frustrated in Canada’s prairie provinces.

Farmers in southern Saskatchewan had most of their crop in, but for those in northwest region, the weather has wreaked havoc.

As of September 21st, only 17 per cent of the crop had been combined, according to the crop report from the Ministry of Agriculture.

A snowfall at that time delayed the work, and now there’s more.

“…between smoke, cloud cover, rain and now snow. We’re sitting and waiting”

“It’s pretty stressful,” Devon Walker told the CBC’s Adam Hunter.

Hunter grows wheat and canola as well as yellow peas and fava beans on his farm near Lashburn, Saskatchewan, about 225 kilometres northwest of the city of Saskatoon.

Snow on the last day of summer (Sept. 21) covered Devon Walker’s swather. (Submitted by Devon Walker)

He estimated that based on the average yields, about $800,000 (Cdn) worth of crop was covered by snow on his 2,200-acre farm.

“We have stacks of bills like everybody else does at this time of year and all the money to pay for it is under what looks to be an inch and a half, two inches of snow.”

Walker described the last three years as “troublesome harvests.”

“Since the middle of August we’ve had about nine days of sunlight, between smoke, cloud cover, rain and now snow. We’re sitting and waiting.” he said in September.

And the weather did not improve. Yesterday, near Minnedosa in the neighbouring province of Manitoba, Neil Galbraith told the CBC’s Erin Brohman, that of his 3800 acres, forty per cent of the crop has yet to be harvested.

“Four snows and lots of cool cloudy days and it’s not melting, it gets hard on the emotions, or I guess, mental health.” he says.

Ian Chitwood, who farms near Airdrie, Alberta, told Brohman he hasn’t harvested anything yet.

With 30 centimetres of snow on the ground now, he says it will take another week to 10 days for everything to dry, again depending on the weather.

He says a lot of producers are beginning to panic.


Snow and hail have made this year’s harvest a heartbreak for Megz Reynolds and Liam Gauthier, seen here hugging their girls on the family farm. Reynolds is speaking out about the stress, anxiety and depression farmers struggle with. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Meanwhile, Megz Reynolds, from a family grain farm near Kyle, Saskatchewan, testified before the House of Commons standing committee for agriculture in Ottawa this past week.

The committee is studying the mental health challenges facing farm families.

In what the CBC’s Janani Whitfield described as an “emotional speech”, Reynolds described the heartbreak of “watching a 10-minute hailstorm obliterate hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

She said “it was the first time in her life she felt like a complete failure as a farmer, wife and a parent”.

“It was the first time, and sadly not the last, that I felt my only worth to my family was in my life insurance policy,” Reynolds told the committee

(With files from CBC)

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