Saskatchewan

Prairie farmers' woes continue as poor weather halts harvest activity

Stan Jeeves' crops have endured a lot this year. His crops on his farm near Wolseley, Sask. — approximately 100 kilometres east of Regina — had trouble growing in the spring because of dry conditions. That set him back when harvest came around. 

Stress line calls increase as snow, rain make harvest difficult

Stan Jeeves, who farms near Wolseley, Sask. holds crop that was damaged by mildew from poor weather conditions. Jeeves only has about 25 per cent of his crop in. He's usually nearly finished harvesting his crop by now. (Trent Peppler/CBC )

Stan Jeeves' crops have endured a lot this year.

Jeeves, who farms near Wolseley, Sask. — approximately 100 kilometres east of Regina — had trouble growing them in the spring because of dry conditions.

The rain he needed finally came in August, but it was far too late and too much. He said eight inches have fallen since Aug. 1 — four times what the area usually gets.

He's only spent four or five days in the field since harvest began. 

"We're about a quarter done," said Jeeves. "All of [the crop] is tough or damp."

Stan Jeeves, who farms near Wolesley, Sask., has only been able to get into the field on a handful of days during harvest because of poor weather. (Trent Peppler/CBC )

Jeeves — who farms canola, wheat and barley among other things — would normally have almost everything in the bin. This time of year, he's usually getting ready to prepare for winter.

Light snow which fell throughout southern Saskatchewan Tuesday night has now further hindered his ability to get work done, and mildew is also beginning to form on his crops. Even if they can be combined, the quality is too poor to sell them. 

Between the weather and continuing market uncertainty, he says his pocketbook will ultimately bear the brunt.

"It'd be $4 to $5 an acre difference," he said.

Other provinces also behind 

Jeeves isn't the only farmer having trouble. The latest crop report shows only 55 per cent of crop is in the bin in Saskatchewan. That's well below the five-year average of 82 per cent.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Cory Jacob said that while the volume of crops coming in won't be significantly affected, the condition of the crops will be. 

"Quality has definitely taken a hit," said Jacobs. "Any of this moisture we've been getting has been continually downgrading the grain."

Cory Jacob with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture says the quality of crops will likely be downgraded this year due to poor harvest weather. (Kirk Fraser/CBC )

Alberta farmers have been facing similar difficulties. Around 34 per cent of major crops has been harvested, which is 20 per cent below the five-year average.

Although Manitoba has fared relatively well this year, with 71 per cent in the bin so far, a major snow storm is set to impact a large swath of crop-rich fields in the southern part of the province through the later part of the week. 

Stress line calls increase

Jeeves is taking the weather in stride. He's been farming since 1973 and has learned to not let the bad weather get the best of him.

"You should stress about the things you can control and you can't control that," he said. "You walk around your yard and swear at the snow but it doesn't help anything."

Jacob said farmers who've been cultivating for years, like Jeeves, are likely used to rough years and aren't as worried. But younger producers might feel more stressed.

"Three or four years in a row of this, it starts to maybe take its toll on a person," he said.  

Employees at the Saskatchewan Farm Stress Line have seen the impact the weather has had. Calls to the line have more than doubled in the past couple of years — from 320 to 757.

John McFadyen, executive director of Regina Mobile Crisis Services, says calls to the provincial Farm Stress Line have more than doubled in the past couple of years. Some of those calls have included farmers stressed about the poor harvest weather conditions. (Kirk Fraser/CBC )

The stress line's executive director John McFadyen called this farming season "very unusual" due to the extreme conditions. He said his staff have reported an increase in calls this fall.

"There was a spouse that had encouraged her husband to call because he was having difficulty sleeping and also difficulty eating on a regular basis because he was so stressed because of the harvest," said McFadyen.

He said the uptick in calls could also stem from more people being comfortable talking about mental illness.

"It could be ... the concerns were out there where people needed to talk to somebody, but when they became aware that we were available they would call," he said.

Farmers in Saskatchewan are encouraged to call the line at 1-800-667-4442 if they need assistance. 

About the Author

Ethan Williams is a reporter with CBC News in Saskatchewan. Before joining the CBC in September 2019, he worked as a reporter for the Regina Leader-Post. Contact him: ethan.williams@cbc.ca

With files from Bonnie Allen and The Morning Edition

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