The Current

Fruit trees snapped by Fiona will take 5 years to regrow, says P.E.I. orchard owner

In P.E.I., post-tropical storm Fiona has left one orchard facing damage that could take up to five years to correct.

Neighbours offering help to salvage fruit scattered across orchard land

A trellis system in an orchard is seen to be severely damaged after a heavy storm.
Post-tropical storm Fiona snapped hundreds, potentially thousands of trees at Geoff Boyle's orchard in P.E.I., as well as bending and twisting the trellis support system. (Submitted by Geoff Boyle)

A fruit grower in P.E.I. says it will take up to five years to reestablish his orchard after the damage wrought by post-tropical storm Fiona at the weekend.

The storm battered Atlantic Canada, washing away infrastructure and leaving thousands without power. P.E.I. experienced heavy rainfall and winds gusting over 170 km/h.

Geoff Boyle, co-owner of The Grove Orchard and U-Pick in Warren Grove, P.E.I., talked to The Current's Matt Galloway about the damage to his crop of apples and pears, and how his community is coming together to help each other. 

Tell me about the orchard. What is it like there now? I mean, what sort of damage did you get? 

It's pretty significant. It's one thing for the fruit to be on the ground because of the storm, you know, which is a one-time loss. It's another thing to have a complete infrastructure trellis system — and the trees — snap, as a result of the storm.

That sets us back five years because, you know, if we go back and rip those out and transplant new ones in the spring, that's going to be a five-year delay before we get back to where we were. 

A composite image of a man standing in an orchard, left; and the damage done to the same orchard by a storm. Trees are down, and fruit is all over the floor.
Boyle, left, said there were efforts to save some fruit before the storm hit. But the scale of the destruction far outweighs what it was possible to preserve. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC; Submitted by Geoff Boyle)

How many of those trees were snapped? 

We're still counting. We have 152 rows, and I was on row 16 yesterday. We have 13,000 trees — in row 16 alone, I have 91 trees in that one row that need to be replaced. 

This is the peak season for fruit, right? So the trees would be really heavy?

It's the worst possible time because the trees were loaded with fruit. You know, each tree probably had 40 pounds of fruit on it. And we have them in this new trellis system, which puts them at three feet apart. So it's literally a wall of apples. And the wind direction was coming right across the side of the trees. 

With it pushing on the side with that wall of apples, it basically gave out in a lot of areas. 

WATCH | P.E.I. left without power for days

P.E.I. left without power for days after post-tropical storm Fiona

2 months ago
Duration 2:41
About 100 members of the military are set to arrive in Prince Edward Island to help after post-tropical storm Fiona left close to 90 per cent of homes without electricity.

I know that you were trying to do some stuff earlier last week, to get ahead of the storm. Did that save much fruit or save much of the trees? 

Not really. It made me feel good, but not really. We did salvage about 18 bins of apples, which is about 800 pounds each. So it's something, but in the scale of things, not very much. But at the time it felt good that we were trying our best to do what we could.

What have you seen in terms of goodwill and good action? 

I've seen amazing things. Two days ago, when I was in line with a bunch of other people … at the fuel station, to kind of get some more generator fuel. People recognized us when we're in the line and they said, "Oh how are things?" And we explained.

The people in front of us said, "Well, I've got two kids … we can go out there and work and clean up some apples," because there's thousands, hundreds of thousands of pounds on the ground. 

And then the people from behind us, they heard … and they basically said, "Well, we have a chainsaw, we'll come out … we can pull back the trees for you and help you out that way."

When people step up like that to help out, it tells you something about the part of the country you live in. 

We have great neighbours. But our story is only one of hundreds of stories, you know, all over Atlantic Canada. So, you just get through it and do the best you can.


Audio produced by Kate Cornick, Cameron Perrier and Mary-Catherine McIntosh. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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