Unusual weather a blessing and curse for Quebec farmers

A hot end to the summer has some farmers saying it's making up for the rest of the growing season's cold and rainy weather, while others are sounding the alarm on an increase in weather swings.

Warm weather good for strawberries, grain, squash, but bad for apples

Phil Quinn says abnormal weather is 'more and more common,' and is causing a host of problems for farmers. (CBC)

A hot end to the summer has some farmers saying it's making up for the rest of the growing season's cold and rainy weather, while others are sounding the alarm on an increase in weather swings.

At 25 degrees, it was six degrees higher than Montreal's historical average at the Fall equinox Friday.

Philippe Beauregard's Potager Mont-Rouge farm in Rougemont, about 50 kilometres southeast of the city, looked like summer was still going strong.

"It's back-to-school, but my gosh it feels like the construction holiday," Beauregard said Friday, which was a day off for many schools in the area and Quebec's construction holiday being the last two weeks of July.

'Far from a record year'

Beauregard co-owns the farm with his family and says the growing season was "far from a record year" because of all the rain, but the hot days and lack of precipitation recently have given crops a boost.

Potager Mont-Rouge co-owner Philippe Beauregard says the warm weather has brought more people to his farm. (Le Potager Mont-Rouge Halte Gourmande/Facebook)

Beauregard said his farm was lucky compared to others hit by a brief hail storm in July that caused extensive damage. 

45 seconds of hail and $120,000 of damage

Quinn Farm in Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot was one of those hit and co-owner Phil Quinn said the "45 seconds worth of hail, it hit us [for] probably $120,000," holding up a damaged apple. It hurt 25 per cent of Quinn's orchard.

Quinn said farmers in his area would expect hail once every five years, "now it's every summer we're getting two, three bouts of hail. It's not fun."

Phil Quinn of Quinn Farms holds up an apple damaged by a short hail that wreaked havoc on his apple orchard in July. (CBC)

He says abnormal weather has been "more and more common" in recent years "and it sucks for anyone who's growing anything."

Warm weather saves crops

Jean Fournel owns Ferme Anse au Sable in Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot and said he almost lost big because of the unusual growing season. 

Fournel had advised the province's crop insurance in July that he would have to claim for almost half of his revenue in lost crops because of the cold and wet weather, but this month's heat saved them. 

"For people who grow corn and soybeans, it's benediction actually," Fournel said.

Ferme Anse au Sable owner Jean Fournel says the hot weather has saved his cash crops of grain corn and soybeans, which would have cost him 50 per cent of his revenue. (Jean Fournel)

But before the mild weather, the summer's cooler days and torrential rains had stunted crop growth. 

"We were stressing that it wouldn't mature, now the stress is gone, it will mature and we will have a good crop," he said. 

"I'm happy and I'm not the only one," Fournel said, adding his neighbour, another farmer, called the other day while on vacation in Germany to find out how the weather has been. 

Strawberry fields forever

To Montreal's north, Isabelle Charbonneau, the owner of the large strawberry farm FraiseBec in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, said the fruit are doing so well grocers have pushed buying American produce back in order to keep hers on the shelves. 

"At this time of year, to have temperatures like this, it's like candy," Charbonneau said with a laugh, describing the strawberries in her fields. 

She said the warm days extended the amount of blooms and the cool nights sealed the sugar inside the fruit. 

Fraise Bec owner Isabelle Charbonneau says the warm days and cool nights of the past few weeks have made the strawberries sweet and 'succulent.' (Submitted by Isabelle Charbonneau)

The growing season at FraiseBec would be ending in the next couple weeks if it wasn't for the heat. Charbonneau expects it to last an extra 10 days or so this year.

This period of the year would have typically yielded 500 to 700 boxes of strawberries, but Charbonneau says the farm's producing between 3,000 and 4,000 thanks to the September heat. 

"We're able to supply the province in small fruits," she said. 

with files from Navneet Pall


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