Farmers devastated after losing crops to marble-sized hail

The owner of Zollinger Farms says this is the worst catastrophe the farm has seen since 2016.

Soybean and corn crops damaged after marble-sized hail wreaked havoc Tuesday

Golf ball- to marble-sized hail rained down over the township of North Dundas, Ont., on Tuesday. The owner of Zollinger Farms says its soybean and corn crops won't be able to be harvested this fall because of the damage. (Dave Zollinger)

A pair of farmers in an eastern Ontario village are devastated after a severe thunderstorm Tuesday that produced large hail, damaging more than 200 hectares of their crops.

Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm warning Tuesday, and its meteorologists tracked a storm they said was capable of producing 110 km/h winds and nickel-sized hail. The storm left several parts of rural areas damaged, uprooting trees and damaging docks.

Tammy Zollinger and her husband own and operate Zollinger Farms in North Dundas, Ont., a township located about 50 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa.  

Rows of soybeans and corn were damaged by golf ball- and marble-sized hail, Zollinger said. It's likely some of the crops won't be harvested in the fall.

That will be a huge financial hit to the business, she said.

"With the reseeding earlier this year from the frost after the crops were already out of the ground, plus this hail damage now, we're definitely looking at a much lower yield," Zollinger said.

The recent storm is the biggest catastrophe the farm has faced since 2016, she said. 

Zollinger's soybean crops were pelted down by the hail and waterlogged. (Tammy Zollinger)

'Really, really stressed'

"We're hoping that the financial loss isn't too big and that the crop insurance will cover some of it," said Zollinger.

Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said although crop insurance is important to have, it doesn't cover nearly enough. 

"We're dealing more and more with severe weather patterns which is why we're advocating for better risk management programs. We can take out crop insurance, but that doesn't cover the profit, it covers what we do,"said Currie.

Corn stalks toppled over from the impact of the hail. (Tammy Zollinger)

Currie said the string of bad weather this year has been especially tough on the industry, but it's still too early to assess its overall impact.

"If I had to make a guess, I'm going to say that it's not going to be a great year in a lot of areas from a financial aspect."

Katie Ward, a livestock farmer in northwest Ottawa and the president of the National Farmers Union, said this kind of devastation is really impacting farmers across the country.

Farmers from British Columbia and across the prairies have also had a rough start to the growing season.

"People are really, really stressed. We worry that we still have to make all of our payments and run our businesses, but there's a lot of things that are out of our control," Ward said. 

Katie Ward, a farmer in Ottawa, says it's difficult finding a blanket solution for farming in extreme weather conditions. (Submitted by Katie Ward)

In terms of solutions, Ward said farmers can try to switch gears by diversifying what they grow or raise on their farm but the best thing they can do is to prepare. 

"The more that we try and work together to implement more climate-friendly practices on our farms and reduce our emissions as well, the more we can mitigate against worse climate events coming at us in the future." 

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