Thunder Bay

Wet June in northwestern Ontario poses challenges for area farmers

June's record precipitation amounts in Thunder Bay, Ont. are posing some challenges for farmers in the area, but one farm owner says it's nothing like what colleagues in southern Ontario are dealing with this year.

June's record rainfall amouts in Thunder Bay very different than dry conditions in southern Ontario

Wet weather this spring has posed some challenges for Thunder Bay-area farmers, said an official with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, but it's not as severe as what farmers in southern Ontario are facing. (CBC)

June's record precipitation amounts in Thunder Bay, Ont. are posing some challenges for farmers in the area, but one farm owner says it's nothing like what colleagues in southern Ontario are dealing with this year.

Environment Canada confirmed Thunder Bay saw 213 millimetres of rain in June, while data from the federal ministry responsible for agriculture shows farmland in northwestern Ontario has been receiving up to twice the amount of rainfall compared to normal; conversely, further south, it's been very dry.

"I know the water is difficult to deal with but we will have feed," said Peggy Brekveld, the vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, and Thunder Bay-area dairy farm owner. "Some areas [in southern Ontario] are already looking at 'we'll have to sell cows because we just don't have the feed.'"
This map from Canada's agriculture ministry shows wetter-than-average conditions in northern Ontario, and significantly dryer conditions in southern Ontario. (http://www.agr.gc.ca/)

While there's no risk of drought at this point in the northwest, Brekveld said too much rain can pose its own challenges. She added that the moisture can make it difficult to dry out silage crops, like grass to be used for hay.

"You really need about four dry days in a row of nice sunny weather so that that grass, once you've cut it, dries down and then you store it, and you need it to be dry so that it doesn't get mouldy," she said, adding that mouldy feed poses health risks for animals.

In addition, it's easier to damage fields with heavy equipment when the ground is waterlogged, she said, which can make harvesting more difficult in subsequent years.

More water in a footprint than in a creek

The difference in rainfall between northern and southern Ontario this year has farmers talking, Brekveld said.

She said she showed a picture of a footprint on a pathway at her farm filled with water to colleagues requesting updates from across the province on the weather.

"Another [farmer] texted me back and said 'well, our creek probably has less water than your footprint,'" she said.

Brekveld added that advancements in field drainage, and increased government spending to help farmers with installation, have helped mitigate the effects of a wet spring.

But sometimes, there's no substitute for hard work.

"I watched some pretty determined farmers, including my husband, several of them stayed up ... just trying to bring that crop in before the next rain shower," she said.

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