Nova Scotia

'Mucky and sticky': Wet spring delays planting on Cape Breton farms

An extraordinarily wet May in Cape Breton means some farmers are as much as two weeks behind schedule in getting their crops in the ground.

'You can't plant when the soil is that heavy,' says Millville farmer

Conrad Niesten of Hank's Farm in Millville, N.S. (Holly Conners/CBC)

An extraordinarily wet May in Cape Breton means some farmers are as much as two weeks behind schedule in getting their crops in the ground.

Last month saw 255 millimetres of rainfall in the Sydney area — two-and-a-half times the average amount for May.

"I've never seen so much rain before. The fields have been very wet," said Lorne Quinn, owner of Quinn's Farms in Millville.

"You can't plant when the soil is that heavy. You just can't move in it. Everything is mucky and sticky and it makes it very hard."

Planting 'a challenge'

Quinn just finished planting his strawberries on May 31, about 11 days later than usual.

"I've been farming here since 1988, and I got stuck down there in them fields five times this year. And that's the first time that it ever happened trying to get the land turned over," he said.

For Conrad Niesten of Hank's Farm Market in Millville, which grows strawberries and 50 varieties of vegetables, the weather has forced some last-minute reorganization.

"You're thinking you're planting in one field, but it won't dry up quick enough, so we move to another one to get our planting done," said Niesten. "So it's just a challenge."

Trying to make up lost time

Eddie Rendell of Rendell's Farm in Bras d'Or has also just finished putting his 70,000 strawberry plants in the ground.

He would normally hope to be harvesting the berries by July 1. This year, he doesn't expect to start picking until July 10. But, he said, "we've picked as early as June  20 and as late as July 11."

In the meantime, farmers are hoping for a run of sunshine and warm weather in the weeks ahead.

"If the temperatures start going up like they normally should be this time of year, we might be able to pick up some lost time," said Quinn.

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