Manitoba

Farms feeling the brunt of Manitoba's dry weather

Manitoba farmers and agricultural producers are feeling the brunt of the unusually dry conditions that have kicked off the summer.

Owner of province's biggest U-pick says it's the driest conditions he's seen in 30 years

Murray Boonstra is opening Boonstra Farms in Stonewall later than usual due to the dry conditions. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Manitoba's biggest U-pick strawberry farm will open to the public for the first time on Thursday — a little later than normal thanks to lack of rain.

"It has been horrible with no rain. We're just battling all the time trying to irrigate everything, get the berries as big as they can be using irrigation, and not having rain just dries out everything," said Murray Boonstra, owner of Boonstra Farms in Stonewall.

"We haven't had this dry of a year since the late '80s."

Boonstra's family missed out on their biggest sales day of the year when they weren't open Canada Day, which normally attracts thousands of berry pickers.

"We're hoping that they'll still come, but you're going to lose some of those first pickers that tend to pick the first week and then go on holidays."

Boonsta's raspberry patches are several feet shorter than normal in parts, and in strawberry fields that rely on rain, berries are significantly smaller.

What plump berries there are are thanks to a sophisticated irrigation system he has through some of the fields.

Keystone Agricultural Producers president Bill Campbell said the lack of rain in Manitoba's Interlake has created many problems this year.

"It's quite concerning in that area."

Bill Campbell, president of Manitoba's Keystone Agricultural Producers, said some crops are about 10 days behind. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

He said some crops are about 10 days behind thanks to cold weather and damage to crops. "It's been significant."

Campbell said parched fields have taken a financial toll on some producers, but added farmers in the southwest part of the province seem to have had an adequate amount of moisture.

CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder said it's difficult to get accurate historical numbers on moisture in rural Manitoba. But he said Winnipeg has seen the driest first half of a year since record-keeping began in 1873.

The normal precipitation at this time of year is about 178 millimetres, but this year Winnipeg has had just over 70 millimetres — about 40 per cent of normal.

Fresh strawberries will be ready to pick at Boonstra Farms in Stonewall starting Thursday morning. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

He said there's another dry stretch ahead for the city starting on Thursday and lasting until Sunday.

Boonstra is keeping a close watch on the weather and hoping Mother Nature will bring him some rain to make his summer a little sweeter.

"We have other crops here that need rain. We have a corn maze that needs rain, we have raspberries that need rain and, you know, lots of the farmers around here and the grain crops, they need rain."

Boonstra Farms opens Thursday at 8 a.m. for strawberry pickers.

Farmers feeling the brunt of Manitoba's dry weather

2 years ago
2:25
Manitoba farmers and agricultural producers are feeling the brunt of unusually dry conditions that have kicked off the summer. 2:25

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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