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With harvest nearly wrapped up, Manitoba farmers look ahead to 2021

The sun is setting on another Manitoba harvest, one that didn't come without it's challenges -- but was still a significant improvement over the year previous.
The sun is setting on another Manitoba harvest, one that didn't come without it's challenges -- but was still a significant improvement over the year previous. Dylan Williamson / Submitted

Harvest 2020 is nearly in the rear-view mirror for Manitoba — and it comes a couple of weeks sooner than average.

Less than five per cent of the harvest remains in the province, with agriculture expert Harry Siemens estimating there’s only one or two per cent left.

That’s nearly 10 per cent more than the three-year average — which was significantly affected by a major snowstorm last Thanksgiving weekend.

Read more: Manitoba farmers help harvest man’s field after his daughter was hit by a car

Not only has that given Manitoba farmers a bit of breathing room, but it’s allowed them to look ahead to the next growing season — something they’re not used to doing at this time of year.

“They’ve been able to do it all this fall — take off the crop, put on fertilizer, apply weed control for next year, till the soil, and be completely ready,” Siemens explains.

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“I’m happy for Manitoba farmers, because last year was not a good one.”

St. Andrews-area farmer Curtis McCrae spoke to CJOB on Sunday morning — just a few hours away from what he hoped was the finish line to the 2020 season.

“We did ‘average crop’ the hard way. We had incredible yields in some spots — and zeroes in others, thanks to insect damage, drought and excessive moisture. We had a little bit of everything.”

Read more: Make the most out of Manitoba’s harvest with these locally inspired recipes

Siemens says while the forecast certainly doesn’t help what remains of Manitoba’s crops, it does make the ground more brittle, and easier to manage.

“When it’s -3, even colder every evening, [producers] want to do that fieldwork. Many didn’t have the chance to do that for a couple of years in the fall — they just had to skip around it for next spring.”

It will be a significant advantage compared to the spring of 2020 — when farmers were still continuing with the harvest from the year previous after the province got an early blanket of snow in the first week of October.

Read more: Looking back one year after Manitoba’s 2019 Thanksgiving storm

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McCrae says no matter how hard the crop was this season, it still doesn’t compare to 2019.

“I really battled the snow. I think I had 1,000 acres of crop left [at this time last year.]”

When it comes time to celebrate — every farming family does it differently.

While there won’t be any parties this year, producers are still taking a well-deserved time to sit back and relax, before they continue preparing for another year.

“We went out with the family and had a bonfire, roasted some hot dogs, and had some ‘pops,'” says Wawanesa-area farmer Simon Ellis. “It was a bit of a party, you could say.

For McCrae’s family-run operation, it wasn’t about getting together, but instead, staying apart.

“We almost do the opposite [of everyone else],” he laughs. “We actually take time to spend away from each other — because we’ve been working side-by-side for so many months. We just take that time away and look at some other projects we want to get finished.”
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No matter the celebration, it’s one that’s never long enough — as farmers in this province won’t want to squander this extra time, and are busy getting ready for 2021 — a season they say they’re pretty optimistic about.

Click to play video 'Seniors at Alberta care home take nostalgic harvest tour' Seniors at Alberta care home take nostalgic harvest tour
Seniors at Alberta care home take nostalgic harvest tour