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Manitoba farmers set to begin historic seeding season

Combine harvesters work a wheat field south of Lethbridge, Alta., on Aug. 13, 2001.
Combine harvesters work a wheat field south of Lethbridge, Alta., on Aug. 13, 2001. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Despite wet weather expected this week, Manitoba farmers are gearing up for the start of the seeding season.

Amidst the obvious hurdles COVID-19 will provide, farmers are still working to get last year’s harvest off the fields.

Less than favourable weather, namely the October storm that wreaked havoc across the province, had St. Andrews farmer Curtis McRae finished harvesting his field only two weeks ago.

“We still have a lot of work to get ready for this year,” he said.

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Seeding operations are set to begin this week for McRae, and like many other businesses, he’s preparing for the differences COVID-19 will bring to his operations this year. He said getting personal protective equipment (PPE) will likely be his biggest struggle as the gear they normally use is now a hot commodity in the province. He’s also prepared to have staffing shortages.

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“There’s a lot of hard work to do on a farm and it’s tough to figure out how to bring employees in and make them work safely,” said McRae.

Nonetheless, McRae said he doesn’t feel pressure on farmers as he thinks this year’s crop will be one for the record books.

“This very well could be the most important crop that we grow in our lifetimes,” he said.

“The entire world is counting on us and what better group of people to bet on — I think we’ve got this one.”

Farmer Simon Ellis is echoing a similar tone to McRae, saying he also didn’t finish last year’s harvest. Ellis said he still has roughly 70 acres of flax left to harvest, and even though the quality was questionable at times because of the amount of rain, he was happy with their yield.

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Ellis also said he’s concerned about PPE but is hopeful all of their supplies aren’t held back due to the pandemic.

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“We’ve been working with our product suppliers to make sure that they have all of their product in place and then we’ll just have to make sure we follow their safety protocols,” said Ellis.

Right now, Ellis said he’s taking advantage of the delayed start of seeding season by getting all of his equipment washed and tuned up before they see the green light to begin.