Alberta farmer hopes rare February harvest will salvage his season
When Clarence Ewasiw looked at his 1,500-acre farm in Thorhild County in late August, he saw the potential for a very good season. His 600 acres of oats and 450 acres of canola had come in nicely, and he felt the value could reach $700,000. All he had to do was get it off the field. Then, the rain began.
“The fall just turned wet,” Ewasiw told Global news Wednesday morning. “We had early snowfall and the fields got so soft that, some of them, we couldn’t even get into.”
Ewasiw did what he could, but with so much moisture he had to shut down harvest altogether in mid November. The majority of his crops were still in the field, getting battered by the wet weather.
“I’ve got oats laying right down flat, which is probably 70 per cent of the field,” Ewasiw said.
“I had another quarter that was a little bit lighter crop and most of it stood, but with the wind this winter a lot of it shelled out.”
Ewasiw didn’t give up hope of getting back onto the field, and last week he pulled out his combine.
“Well, the ground is frozen now, so we’re not getting stuck or anything.”
A video of Ewasiw running his combine in his snow-covered field posted to Facebook by his neighbour, Heather Moellering, has been viewed more than 300,000 times in less than a week.
Ewasiw figures the value of what he’s harvested so far is about $50,000. He hopes to salvage enough of his oats and canola to make another $300,000. It’s a far cry from what he could have originally earned, but every dollar helps.
“Most of us have bills to pay, input costs due in March,” Ewasiw said.
Ewasiw isn’t the only farmer with crops still out in the field. Thorhild County declared a state of agricultural disaster in mid-December, estimating nearly half of the crops in its boundaries was still unharvested.
The county’s declaration doesn’t give any financial benefit to producers, but is used as a tool to get the attention of the federal and provincial governments.
The Alberta government declared a state of disaster November 22, which allows the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation to access funding from crop and hail insurance premiums already collected so producers can be paid out.
“In the spring, folks out there will be able to get what’s remaining off, we’ll have a better idea of what those payments will be,” Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said Wednesday afternoon, adding the majority of the crops in Alberta have been harvested.
“There’s still about 10 per cent out there,” he added. “Agricultural disaster services corporation is concentrating those resources on that last 10 per cent.”
Ewasiw says, for many farmers with bills, waiting until spring will be too late.
“I hope the government would open their eyes and see what’s happening here,” he said.
“Give us an acreage payment, something.”
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