Manitoba

Reach out early if stalled, soggy harvest leads to added stress: rural support line workers

A dreary, difficult harvest season could lead to more farmers reaching out for help, according to counsellors.

Temperatures have been below normal since mid-September

A combine sits in a swathed field near Onanole, Man., over the weekend. Recent snow and cold weather has ground harvest to a halt in parts of southern Manitoba. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

A dreary, difficult harvest season could lead to more farmers reaching out for help, according to counsellors. 

The Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services is staffed by four professional counsellors and up to 24 volunteers, all with backgrounds in farming, for phone and online counselling. They understand the high levels of stress, anxiety and other mental-health concerns that can spring from a delayed harvest like the one farmers are experiencing now. 

"We're starting to hear from more farmers," said Janet Smith, program manager at the service. "Farmers are a pretty resilient bunch and they tend not to reach out for help easily. I suspect we will start to hear from them once they kind of know what they're dealing with and once the bills start coming in."

Many Manitoba farmers have been waiting since September to finish their harvests, when a hot, dry summer gave way to cool, rainy weather.

It has actually been nearly a month since Winnipeg had a daytime temperature that was normal for the time of year. These days, the high should be around 13 C but Winnipeg hasn't hit that since Sept. 25 — and that's when the normal was closer to 16 C.

The last really warm day was Sept. 16, when it was 27.5 C. The next day, however, it was just 12.5 C.

As for the rain, about 115 millimetres fell in the Winnipeg area throughout September, according to Environment Canada. A normal amount for the month is closer to 40 mm.

The sun has also largely been absent of any long periods of sunshine, needed to dry out to the crops.

"It has been a long time," said Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada. "I think not only for Brandon, but for pretty much everyone in southern Manitoba."

Hasell said temperatures in southern Manitoba have also largely been below normal since the middle of September.

Crops still in field 

Simon Ellis farms near Wawanesa, Man., a town about 35 kilometres southeast of Brandon. Usually by this time in October, he's finished harvest for the season. But this year, he still has about 200 acres left to harvest.

"Basically since the start of September we've hardly turned a wheel," he said Monday, standing in a largely unharvested field near his home.  "If we could have four really nice beautiful sunny days, I think we'd be in pretty good shape."

"But if we're having days like today, three degrees above and cloudy, we're going to need a full week to get anything done."

Simon Ellis, who farms near Wawanesa, Man., said he needs about a week of sunny weather to finish the harvest on his farm. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Snow blanketed his farm, like it did to many others earlier this month as well, stalling progress even more. He said harvesting in weather like this is not only tough on the equipment, but is also costly, as grain needs to be dried with grain dryers that require fuel and time.

"Those days are tough to get out of bed sometimes," he said. "I try to remain positive and optimistic that we're going to get a week of weather, in October and November."

"But it's tough … it can be tough when you start to see a half a foot of snow on your field and it's flat and you know the quality, it's starting to degrade."

Ellis said his family has a strong support system and can talk to one another, which is important.

"It's about talking to other people and discuss those challenges that we face," he said.

Reaching out early 

Smith said reaching out early is key.

"Lots of times we're hearing for people saying 'my husband, my wife, my friend, my child is demonstrating these kinds of things, it's not like them, their behaviour is changing, I'm really worried,'" she said. "Reaching out for help at the earliest possible moment when you feel like you're not coping … watching for behaviour changes."

Back on the farm, Ellis is confident he'll be able to finish his harvest by Halloween, one way or another.

"Let's all just hope for some sun," he said.

To reach the Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support line, call 1-866-367-3276 or visit supportline.ca.

Farmers feeling stressed about weather and harvest

4 years ago
Duration 1:44
The weather has stalled what's left of the harvest in Manitoba.

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