Canada - Manitoulin Island farmer loses crops due to thunderstorm, strong winds

23.06.2022 177 views

A farmer from Manitoulin Island estimates he lost a quarter of his winter squash crop and some ground cherries due to a storm that produced strong winds last Friday.

Wind gusts were up to 80 km/h from a storm that hit parts of northeastern Ontario, including Manitoulin Island.

Eric Blondin, who owns Three Forks Farms with Peggy Baillie, said the strong winds started to lift some of the landscaping fabric they had pinned down to prevent weeds from taking root.

"And the wind was so strong, trying to negotiate these large pieces of fabric was quite challenging," Blondin said. 

"We were running around with shovels, the whole team, and we were just trying to weigh it down more."

Blondin said the frequent storms early in the season are one more sign climate change continues to have an impact on agriculture.

"Climate change is very real and it's always something that's on the back of our mind because it's the extremes that come with it."

To help protect his crops, Blondin said he and his team are planting more windbreaks, or hedgerows, to protect their plants from the wind.

"And we are strengthening a lot of our structures, adding more braces than what had been recommended because it's only going to get worse, or more frequent, I should say.," he added.

Steven Flisfeder, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said northeastern Ontario normally sees severe thunderstorms start around late May and early June.

"But this year we have seen it's a little bit earlier, maybe two or three weeks sooner than what is typical."

Beyond severe thunderstorms, farmers in the region have also had to contend with frost.

On Saturday, Mitch Deschalets, owner of Leisure Farms in Sturgeon Falls, faced near-freezing temperatures overnight.

"The only reason it didn't freeze is because there was a lot of  wind throughout the night."

Deschalets said his farm has a sprinkler system that kicks in when temperatures get too low to protect their crops from frost damage.

"It seems like we do get more extremes," he said. "I know they say global warming, but it seems like it's more extremes. You can get record cold also."

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