Tough year for farmers in 'waterlogged' southeast Manitoba as flooding threatens livelihoods

Farmers in the rural municipality of Stuartburn are struggling to cope due to flood waters that have destroyed crops and undone weeks of hard work. 

Farmers say it's been their most difficult 12 months in decades

Farmers Judy and Jerry Maxymowich say their 80 acres of land is basically all saturated or under water. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

In their 38 years of farming together in southeastern Manitoba, Judy and Jerry Maxymowich can't remember a worse 12 months.

As the rain continued to pelt down Tuesday evening, the two talked about the latest blow — four days of downpour that turned their once-parched 80 acres into a soupy mess.

"We had the same situation last fall. We were just into harvesting our crops and the water came along and we couldn't take most of it off, it was too wet to take off," Jerry said.

"Here we just got the crop in last week and it's all underwater again, so what do we do now?"

Farmers in the rural municipality of Stuartburn are struggling to cope due to flood waters that have destroyed crops and undone weeks of hard work. 

The rural municipality of Stuartburn, where the Maxymowichs live, issued a mandatory evacuation order for some nearby residents in the Arbakka area late Tuesday evening as flood waters rushed people out of their homes there.

Flooding threatens a home in the rural municipality of Stuartburn, Man., on Tuesday. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The couple in the small neighbouring community of Caliento, located about 99 kilometres from Winnipeg, said their basement is flooding and their farmland is covered in water.

The hay crops could be saved, but the grain crops on the low-lying land are likely done for, Jerry said, adding some rainfall was necessary, but not this much.

They hope to replant the damaged crops, if and when they can.

Thirsty crops now 'waterlogged'

Ken Holme farms canola near Sundown, about 11 km east of Caliento. In his 21 years on the land, he said he's never seen worse flooding.

"Our fields are all waterlogged. It's knocked out quite a bit of the young canola," he said.

Ken Holme said his soggy farmland was dry before the rain. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

As of Tuesday evening, Holme said his farm had received more than 200 millilitres of rain since Saturday, which came as a big shock after such a dry early spring.

"Our ground was cracking up and everybody was praying for rain and then all of a sudden, it came."

Holme said his crop was progressing well after being seeded on May 22, but now he's not sure if any of his 400-plus acres will be salvageable. At an expected gross profit of $375 per acre, that's a big hit to his bottom line.

"If we can't save it, we'll wait till it dries and we'll have to turn it over and maybe plant a fall crop," he said.

Some soaking wet crops will be ruined following several days of rain in the rural municipality of Stuartburn. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Despite having "a couple of tense days," Holme says he's more concerned about the economic impacts of the pandemic on his grandchildren than he is about a few days of heavy rain. 

"At the end of the day, we've always got to remember there are people that are way worse off than we are."

With files from Peggy Lam