‘Tis that time of year again, now if only the weather would cooperate.
While some farmers were laughing as they were able to get their crop in early this past spring, the rainy weather featured in the last few weeks has likely made up for that advantage. After all, they needed that rain a few weeks ago when the crop needed it, not now when they’re trying to get it up.
It has been a milder — at least compared to last year — summer with storms, including tornado warnings and some hail storms, with an August one infamously wiping out a good chunk of the Taber corn supply in a matter of minutes, leading to a spout of ‘hail sales’ around the province. Even local growing projects haven’t been safe, with hail wiping out an entire field of barley for the Picture Butte Growing Project.
It has been an eventful summer for the ag industry too, with trade agreements coming into force or waiting to be ratified, a provincial election, impending new ag-safety legislation, a federal election and China’s attacks — seemingly in retaliation to Meng Wanzhou’s, the CFO for Chinese telecom Huawei, arrest on behalf of the U.S. — against the ag sector.
But if there’s one thing we know, is that those in the ag industry are hardy. They are used to playing the long waiting game as they wait for their crop to be just the right amount of ripeness before hitting the field firing on all cylinders to collect it all before it goes bad.
They are used to new governments bringing in new legislation after the last only just finish implementing all of theirs, and if you get it wrong, they are more then happy to drive up in their tractor and lay out all of the reasons why you are wrong.
They are used to dealing with the sudden weather changes and dry-spells, the latter of which those in southern Alberta weather with with the help of trustee irrigation.
They are used to caring for hundreds — if not thousands — of animals at a time. They do all of this while putting up with the demands of consumers, three levels of government and a global landscape that changes daily.
One can argue that agriculture is unlike any industry in the world. Those producing the product are either forced to sit back and wait or furiously work, while those manufacturing things with the product are at the whim of the harvest. If hail wiped out half the crop and there isn’t enough for demand, too bad, you have to wait until next year.
We in Canada are lucky to live in a country where we can produce a wide variety of food. According to Statistics Canada, in 2015, the agriculture and agri-food manufacturing sector contributed $49 billion to Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which accounted for 2.6 per cent of the country’s total GDP.
While you can now see bare fields as you drive along the highways, harvest season isn’t over yet. Sugar beets, potatoes and corn still need to come out of the ground, and we can expect farmers to be out at all hours, if only to ensure that harvest goes well and fields are ready for planting come spring.
Be careful out on the roads. Even though the bulk of harvest is over, equipment still needs to be moved and hay hauled away. And sometimes these vehicles are bigger and slower than your average car. Be patient, take time, and hopefully everyone will stay safe this harvest.