British Columbia

Fraser Valley farmers forced to abandon ripe crops

The prolonged intensity of this summer's heat and the absolute lack of rain are causing crops to ripen faster than they can be picked.

The unusually long, hot summer conditions are causing all produce to ripen simultaneously

The prolonged intensity of this summer's heat and the absolute lack of rain are causing serious problems for farmers in the Fraser Valley. 

"We've had hot weather before, but this concentrated season beginning with summer in April has caused the seasons to collapse together," said Tom Bauman, a berry farmer and an agriculture professor at the University of the Fraser Valley

"We were at one point harvesting strawberries, raspberries and blueberries all at the same time."

This is forcing farmers to waste good crops, Baumann said. 

"Do we have enough labour? No. Do we have enough machines to pick the crops, the corn, the berries, et cetera? No. Do we have the capacity to process and pack everything, put it in freezers and push it out into the fresh market? No. 

"They have to leave some of the crop in the field and skip it to go to the next field that is at the perfect quality."

Plants shrivel in the heat

"It's affecting the farmers deeply," said Baumann. 

Fields that have never been irrigated and that rely on the natural soil to store and distribute water are dying, said Baumann, who's driven past fields of spoiled corn. 

"I've seen some blueberry plants actually shriveling up too, the leaves curling, and the plants look like they're dying." 

That's a bad sign for years to come, since many of the plants that perish this year won't flower in the coming seasons, Baumann said. 

Go pick some fruit

One benefit of the heat is that earlier crops actually taste better, Baumann said. 

He and other farmers in the Fraser Valley are encouraging locals to help with the harvest by picking this weekend. 

"That would be great. That would be a relief for the farmers."

To hear the full interview with Tom Baumann, listen to the audio labelled: Fraser Valley farmers struggle through the summer drought.