Snowfall leads to seeding delay for farmers, but some remain optimistic about early start

Recent snowfall has led to a delay in seeding crops for some Alberta farmers who were looking to get ahead in a year where they're experiencing an increase in costs.

High demand expected; quality and quantity are question marks as input costs rise

Jonathan Chamulka surveys the snowfall on his farmland near the Edmonton International Airport. His family has owned and run the farm for more than a century. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Some farmers south of Edmonton had hoped to get an early start to seeding, but that's currently been delayed by snowfall. This year, demand for crops is expected to be high and so are input costs for farmers.

On Wednesday, Jonathan Chamulka awoke to a blanket of snow on his farmland north of the Edmonton International Airport. The 40-year-old farmer was hoping to get a head start by seeding his crops a little early in April, but he's still optimistic that might happen.

"I would have rather seen rain, but I'll take the moisture any way we can get it right now. So I think it'll be a good thing," Chamulka said.

"It might put a delay on us, but in the end, I guess we'll see what we get from here on out. But if we can get some warm weather with it, I think it'll help us out for putting the crop in."

Wheat farmer Humphrey Banack, vice-president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, has a similar level of optimism. But he's hoping the forecast changes to a brighter outlook for Alberta farmers this year, especially those looking to grow feed for their cattle.

Snowfall dampens early seeding plans

3 months ago
Duration 2:12
In a year where crops like wheat are in demand, some Alberta farmers are hoping for warmer weather to get a headstart.

"The weather isn't supposed to warm up very quickly here. It may quickly cut into our seeding time," said Banack, who farms north of Camrose.

"We look at starting seeding about the 5th of May right here on our farm. And it very well may be some time past that before we get going."

The conditions are keeping some Alberta farmers off their fields, and it's giving them some time to focus on increasing input costs in a year when demand is high for crops like grain.

"We can't get hung up on the high grain prices. It's been nice, but as nice as it is, you reflect on the cost of fertilizer and all your inputs. Chemicals are going up, [and] equipment. It's a lot of planning," Chamulka said.

Stephen Vandervalk is a Fort Macleod, Alta.-area farmer, and the Alberta vice-president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association. He points to rising fertilizer costs that have doubled since last year as one of the most concerning inputs for farmers at the moment. He expects it to be an expensive year to grow crops.

"You've got to cut back on this or cut back on that. Those cutbacks directly impact yield. And you're not going to see yield increases in this coming year, in my opinion. I think you're going to see yield decreases, strictly because of inputs," Vandervalk said.

"In a year where the world's asking Canada to produce more, it's going to be very difficult for that to happen." 

As for Chamulka, he's already focused on planning for next season, although predicting input costs is making that challenging. He said he's looking forward to getting back on the field to distract him from the financial side of farming as the weather eventually warms up.

Many farmers in northern and central Alberta have been hit with an April snowfall similar to what they might experience in the late fall. (Travis McEwan/CBC)


Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.


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