PEI

P.E.I. farmers rush to get ahead of Hurricane Fiona

As Islanders brace for the arrival of Hurricane Fiona, local farmers are doing what they can to protect — and in some cases harvest — their crops.

With harvest season in full swing, farmers are bracing for strong winds and heavy rain

Geoff Boyle, president of the P.E.I. Tree Fruit Growers Association, says growers are working to save all the apples they can. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

Farmers across the Island are bracing for the worst as Hurricane Fiona approaches.

Geoff Boyle, co-owner of The Grove Orchard and U-Pick, said the biggest concern he has ahead of the storm is the wind it will bring.

"If we get 120-kilometre-an-hour winds when the fruit is as ripe as it is, and as heavy as it is, there's an opportunity for a lot of that to end up on the ground," he said.

On Thursday, teams of workers spread out across the orchard, some working to tighten the trellises used to support trees, others picking apples nearing full ripeness. 

"The trees are loaded with fruit right now, which is probably the most dangerous time for a trellis system," Boyle said. 

"We're going around tightening up all the leads and wires to take out any slack in our trellis system so that when the storm hits, we'll try to minimize the swaying of the trees."

You've got to go out there if it's possible and try to salvage what you can.— Geoff Boyle

Boyle is not the only one preparing for the worst — he says other growers were doing similar projects Thursday, hoping to save all the apples they could.

"The reality is, you've got to go out there if it's possible and try to salvage what you can and do the same things that we are," he said.

Across the Island, other farmers were also busy preparing for the storm. For Vernon Campbell, it's not just the wind that's an issue — it's the threat of heavy rainfall. 

"If we get several inches of rain in a short period of time, you tend to get ponding in fields and low areas of the field where the drainage is not great," said Campbell, who grows potatoes, cereals and forages for livestock.

Vernon Campbell has farmed potatoes, cereals and forages for livestock near Grahams Road for decades. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

"If that's the case, often the potatoes will drown, so to speak, and then rot. That's the biggest concern for us right now."

Campbell has farmed 2,000 acres of land near Grahams Road, P.E.I. for decades. 

Potatoes are not unlike apples in that one bad apple will spoil the whole bushel.— Vernon Campbell

"Potatoes are not unlike apples in that one bad apple will spoil the whole bushel," he said.

"If you harvest a low area in the field where there's rot, if it goes into the storage they will not only rot themselves, but the potatoes nearby, and a small problem becomes a large problem in a very short period of time."

Although he isn't taking hurricane preparations lightly, Campbell recognizes storms like this are just part of life on P.E.I.

"September is hurricane season in this part of the world," he said.

"There have been a number of tropical storms and hurricanes that have caused tremendous damage to this part of the world and along the Eastern Seaboard of the [United] States as well. That's just where we live and what we have to deal with."

With files from Sheehan Desjardins

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