It’s been a much more satisfying year for farmer Brian Walker.
The owner of Walker’s Strawberry Farm, a fruit, vegetable and beef cattle farm in Lower Millstream, near Sussex, N.B., said 2021 has brought a good mix of rain and heat that produced a strong season of strawberries and raspberries, among other crops.
He also said early numbers for hay bales have been quite promising.
“One field I cut last year we had 94 first cut and this year we had 162 first cut,” Walker said Tuesday. “Same ground, same acreage. Just an example of how good the crop is this year.”
Drought cut into food production across New Brunswick last year and Walker said he had to buy some hay for his farm because he used his entire inventory.
Now, he’s hoping to be part of a movement to send some of his hay to Western Canada, where farmers are struggling with dire conditions.
Hundreds of wildfires continue to burn in British Columbia, threatening homes as well as farms — everything from Christmas trees to ostriches.
Extreme heat and minimal rain across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have decimated farming operations there.
Conditions in Western Canada are bad enough that some farmers are selling their livestock because food and water supplies for the animals are so low.
Now, some Maritime farm organizations are looking at ways to help.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and provincial counterparts are considering shipping hay and other feed to western operators. A similar program in 2012, dubbed “Hay East” brought supplies to eastern Canada during a season compromised by drought.
Lisa Ashworth, the president of the Agriculture Alliance of New Brunswick, admitted there are several challenges, including shipping and distributing.
“So, at this point, New Brunswick has just agreed that we have producers that are willing to help and we’re waiting to hear what those logistics might be and if we can participate,” Ashworth said.
Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture President Tim Marsh said there’s also a chance some western cattle may come east for a while, but he said decisions need to be made quickly.
“A lot of this stuff’s got to be sorted … I would say, in the next week to ten days,” Marsh said. “We need to have a game plan in play because it will give producers out west a hope that they can at least hold onto part of their herds.”
Walker said he’s prepared to contribute to the relief effort if he gets a chance.
“You know what they’re going through,” Walker said of western farmers. “You have some type of concept to feel what they’re feeling. And if you can help them out in any way, you will.”
Marsh and Ashworth admit any help from the Atlantic region would be small in scale.
Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Mary Henderson said any plan would likely need some sort of financial assistance from rail companies, the federal government and private investors to make it feasible.