Harshell Family Farm and Other Local Farms Struggling With the Weather in 2017

It’s no surprise to anyone that farmers are struggling in the Ottawa Valley.  Every time @YOW_Weather tweets that another weather record has been broken, it means more stress and frustration for area farmers.  After the 2016 drought in this region, area farmers never dreamt that they’d be struggling again in 2017, especially with such extreme opposite weather conditions.  Last year we couldn’t make it rain and this year we can’t make it stop!

Spring planting started later than usual, mostly due to extremely wet fields that weren’t able to drain.  For those, like us, farming along the Mississippi River, the fields had nowhere to drain since the tile drain outlets were below the river level.  Then came the rain … and it rained … and it rained … and it rained.

While homes and cottages were being damaged by high water levels in cities and towns, farmers’ livelihoods were being damaged by the same high water levels.  Once we did manage to get most of our acres planted, in less than ideal soil conditions, the rains continued and drowned out large areas of fields.  Corn, soybeans, spring wheat, malting barley, sunflowers, winter wheat, and winter rye, were all impacted by the wet conditions and continue to struggle today. While some parts of fields are completely devoid of plants, other parts are stunted to the point that harvesting crop will be difficult if not impossible.  Each time it rains, the puddles return to the fields and we can literally smell the crops rotting in the mud.  There are a few tiny glimmers of hope where some parts of a few fields appear to be unscathed.  There are also, within Eastern Ontario, a few regions where the weather has not been as much of an issue as here in the Municipality of Mississippi Mills.

Add to the delayed planting and damaged crops, the fact that timely application of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides, all beneficial to producing the quality and quantity we strive for, was delayed or missed on many acres.   At this point, with harvest set to begin in the next couple of weeks, we keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to salvage a marketable product from the fields.

We are keenly aware that, while our crops are struggling on our farm, our neighbours are facing a huge challenge trying to make hay this year.  While most first cut would normally be completed in May/June, and second cut in July, many farmers have not even started to make hay in 2017.  The quality of hay that is coming off the fields at this point is poor due to over maturity and the fact that much of the hay has rotted in the bottom of the fields.  Livestock farmers are wondering how the low feed value will impact their dairy and beef production going forward and how they will balance rations to ensure production requirements are managed.  Horse farmers are desperately trying to find hay to meet their needs as well.

As I write this update for our website, I am pleased that many area farmers, businesses, and organizations recognize that farmers are frustrated and stressed and are lending an ear of concern for the industry.  As an industry we are proud and passionate and we always try to find the good in the bad.

For us, here at Harshell, the “good” is the fact that tomorrow will be the first of many days that 22 acres of sunflowers, at our farm on Martin Street North, will greet passersby with an amazing show of beauty.  There’s something quite fulfilling, as a farmer, in knowing that so much joy, can be brought to so many people, just by sharing the beauty of what we do.

If you’re in the area, please feel free to drop by our farm and take some pictures.  We’d be more than happy if you wanted to share your photos with us on twitter @mbashelley or @haroldmcphail.  You can also email us info@harshellfarm.com.

Thanks for now and wish us good luck and good weather for the rest of 2017.

Harold & Shelley

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