Ottawa

Dry winter brings drought worries for Ottawa-area farmers

An unusually dry winter and spring has Ottawa-area farmers dipping into their water reserves and concerned about what they say could be a bad growing season.
A dry winter and spring has meant a dry start to the growing season, as Ashley Burke reports. 2:58

An unusually dry winter and spring has Ottawa-area farmers dipping into their water reserves and concerned about what they say could be a bad growing season.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority last week declared a low water advisory after they said the spring flood peak arrived two weeks earlier than normal and was one of the lowest on record.

"This time of year we're usually looking at the tail end of the spring flood instead of looking at a possible drought," said Patrick Larson, a senior water resources technician with the conservation authority.

South Ottawa farmer Peter Ruiter said he is usually wearing rubber boots at this time of year, but is now trudging through dry fields.

"It could be a very, very tough year. It could be one of my worst, that's for sure," said Ruiter.

Ruiter grows corn and hay on his 90 acres of land, in part to sustain his 80 dairy cows. He said he has already depleted his reserve of water after a dry fall and winter.

"I need feed to feed my cows," he said. "Need rain to get crops to grow on the field. Now, we've already used up our reserve for the summer."

Vegetable planting happening earlier

Robin Turner, who runs the Roots and Shoots vegetable farm in Manotick, said the dry soil means he has been able to get an early start to working the land.

"It's super dry," said Turner. "The fields are so easy to work right now we've been out there disking and plowing and getting ready for the season, so it's actually been very good."

Turner said he is concerned however, that if things stay dry many of the crops he plants won't survive the season.

More worrisome to Turner, however, is that the local climate has been prone to extremes.

"In the five years I've been farming in the Ottawa area, we've had a record something every year," said Turner. "Every single year there's a new record set. And in terms of stability it's not something we want."