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Alberta hail storm forces early end to Taber corn season

Alberta hail storm forces early end to Taber corn season
WATCH: The Taber corn season just started and it's already almost over after a severe storm on Tuesday caused significant damage to crops. Jasmine Bala has more.

The Taber corn season had only just begun and it’s now already almost over because of crop damage caused by a thunderstorm.

The storm that went through southern Alberta Tuesday night saw golf-ball sized hail and strong wind gusts up to 146 kilometres an hour, according to Environment Canada.

The hail caused Taber corn producer Johnson Fresh Farms to lose about 90 per cent of its crop, a total of 450 acres.

READ MORE: Southern Alberta Taber corn farmers grapple with after-effects of Tuesday’s severe storm

“[It’s] pretty heart-wrenching… We wait all year for this and work really hard and a lot of planning and capital goes into starting our season,” said James Johnson, owner-operator of the farm.
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“It’s just gut-wrenching to see a couple days in, it’s all over just like that.”

While most of the farm’s crop is ruined, some of the corn that was growing in another area was spared.

“I think our little batch that we’re [selling] this weekend is the last of it,” he said. “And then that’s, to my knowledge, the end of Taber corn season this year.”

The summer staple may be in short supply now, but Johnson said what little corn they have left will still be sold at regular price.

Corn took the biggest hit as an above-ground crop, but Taber’s popular sugar beets also suffered significant damage.

READ MORE: If heat sticks around, Taber corn will be ready by the end of July

“The beets will grow back. They will send energy to grow new leaves and two weeks from now, you’ll drive by a beet field and see what happened here,” said Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen, president of Alberta Sugar Beet Growers.

“But at this time of year, a storm is devastating. It probably equates to about a 40 per cent yield loss.”

Although a storm like this has devastating effects, Bergen-Henengouwen notes this is just one of those things that can’t be avoided.

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“We don’t like it at all,” he said. “But you have to go to bed at night and know that it’s next year’s country and you go after it again.”