New Brunswick farmers are hoping for some relief from Mother Nature in the next few weeks.
There was very little rain in the region in June, leaving some farmers in jeopardy of losing their crops.
Vegetable farmer Sean Pope of Belleisle Farms in Belleisle Creek, N.B., said he’s already lost about 10 per cent of his broccoli crop for the summer and will lose a percentage of cabbage as well.
Cabbage makes up more than a quarter of the 270 acres in his operation.
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Workers transplanted some cabbage in Berwick, N.B., on Monday. It was a late planting, according to Pope.
In the same field, just a few rows over, other cabbage planted a week-and-a-half ago struggles to survive. Pope said it took just three days for many of the plants to dry up in 30-plus degree temperatures with no rain.
He said it was the driest June he had ever seen.
“Typically we get a good rain a week through June,” Pope said. “We went through three weeks with no rain at all. Not even hardly a heavy dew. And with that hot sun and the heat, it’s just caused a lot of stress on the plants and everything is set back.”
Pope said his home farm got an inch of rain on Friday, which helped to save crops of squash and pumpkin which were had been in serious danger.
He said he uses irrigation systems to help supplement the lack of precipitation, but it has range limitations and his primary water source can dry up after less than two days of continuous use.
“That’s farming,” he said while admitting to being stressed about this season.
“You don’t get a lot for your product in the first place, as a commercial wholesaler, you just don’t,” Pope said. “It’s tough. It’s tough. That’s why I have a recreation business as well.”
Pope said weather has been just one of his challenges this year. The workforce is another.
He usually employs 25 to 30 people in his operation but hasn’t been able to find enough local workers to fill those jobs.
He said he had planned to use temporary foreign workers this year, but dropped the idea after the provincial government put a ban on temporary foreign workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That ban has since been lifted.
While it won’t help with a worker shortage, there may be some weather relief with rain expected by the weekend, according to Global News Meteorologist Anthony Farnell.
He said a tropical system is going to work its way up the east coast.
“It won’t be a hurricane or anything like that, but it will bring tropical moisture, and that soaking rain that we’re hoping for this weekend looks like it’s going to come true,” Farnell said.
“Then we do enter a wet pattern for the next couple of weeks along with the above-normal temperatures.”
Pope said he’s worried about dairy farmers in his area who are struggling to provide enough food for their animals.
He said he’s getting multiple calls from farmers looking to buy straw left behind from a wheat harvest.