Early autumn heat wave a mixed bag for Ontario's fruits and veggies
A cool, wet summer and a steaming hot early fall has been a mixed blessing for farmers
With the fall equinox past, 'tis the season for comfy sweaters, spiced lattés and Instagram-perfect days picking apples among the early foliage.
Or, at least it should be.
Instead, the summer-that-never-was has finally made an appearance, blanketing southern Ontario with 30 C heat.
So hot, in fact, that apples at some GTA farms are taking siestas.
"When it gets too hot, some fruits like apples and grapes simply shut down," said Matthew Passafiume, director of the Applewood Farm Winery in Stouffville, Ont.
"They stop ripening; they stop growing; they don't mature," he told CBC Toronto during a tour of his fields.
A considerable part of his business is opening the orchard to the public, so people can come pick their own fresh apples. But while the farm will still be open this weekend, apple picking will have to wait.
"We're going into this weekend with all these apples on trees that aren't ready to be picked, so we'll have to delay everything one week."
Between 30 and 40 per cent of his apples currently on the branch are under-ripe. His woes are compounded because he started the season with nearly 70 per cent fewer apples than in a normal year because last summer's drought stressed the trees so much they didn't blossom.
"We feel a little bit smited," he said with a laugh.
The early autumn heat wave, however, hasn't been a bane for all farmers. Those cultivating cash crops like corn and soybeans, plants that revel in heat, desperately needed a sustained period of warm, dry weather to save a harvest that was nearly compromised by an otherwise wet and cool growing season.
Farmer Guy Farintosh told CBC Toronto that the unseasonably hot temperatures even saved some of his crop.
"We were so far behind back at the beginning of September, every farmer in Ontario needed more heat to get their [cash] crops to ripen up," he said in a field at Farintosh Farms.
Early spring brought so much rain, that Farintosh estimates 30 to 40 per cent fewer crops survived the drenched spring than in a standard year. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant were all "very behind," he said.
"Now all of a sudden, they're back in the game."
It's not all sunshine for Farintosh, though. Some of this other crops, especially ones darker in colour, like some varieties of squash and peppers, have struggled in the latter half of September. These crops often retain heat for longer and if the exposure is sustained, the insides spoil.
The hot weather is expected to break in the coming days, though, with a return to seasonable temperatures by the weekend or early next week.
Farintosh said he hopes to harvest as many ripe crops as possible before then.