Farmers trying to cope with dry, hot conditions

Katie Tower
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The rain over the past few days (Aug. 13-14) may have provided a bit of relief for local farmers worried about the effect this summer’s dry, hot weather is having on their crops. But they are crossing their fingers it’s not over yet.

Kent Coates, shown working on his farm near Pointe de Bute, New Brunswick last week, is joining other area farmers in praying for more rain in the coming weeks. 

(Sackville, New Brunswick) Area producers say they are hoping for a few more steady downpours over the next month.

“We’re praying for rain,” said Kent Coates, who owns and operates Nature’s Route Farm near Pointe de Bute along with his wife Ruth.

Coates said with a dry spring and an even drier summer, some farmers in the region are struggling to maintain their gardens and their pastures this year.

Fortunately for them, however, the Coates’ are in much better shape than many of their other fellow Maritime producers. They say they have been able to overcome the lack of rain this summer, thanks to a fortuitous decision to invest in a new irrigation system for their gardens just this spring.

“Without it, we would be in a lot of trouble,” said Coates.

He said the corners of the gardens that are not getting watered by the irrigation system are not producing well at all, and that tells you how troublesome the dry weather could have been for them this year. The broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage crops, in particular, would have suffered most, as they require lots of water to grow.

“All the crops would have been affected . . . so we’re really happy we made that investment,” said Coates.

Yet despite their good luck so far, they know they’re not out of the woods yet. Their irrigation system is derived from a spring-fed pond; and if there isn’t a significant amount of rain soon, their water source may eventually dry up as well.

“The springs are still running. But every day, they’re slowing down a little more.”

The Coates’, who grow a diverse selection of produce on their 90-acre operation, also rear sheep. Coates said the dry weather has resulted in less grass for the animals to graze on, which is becoming worrisome as the sheep may tend to wander onto other areas of the farm looking for ‘greener pastures.’

But there is a bright side to this year’s weather, said Coates, especially compared to last year’s gray, cold conditions.

“All the warm weather crops are really liking the sun,” he said. “We have lots of squash this year and the cucumbers are coming really well.”

And if there’s one thing that can be certain of in the Tantramar region, said Coates, “it will rain eventually, of that I’m sure.”

Local MLA Mike Olscamp, who also serves as New Brunswick’s Minister of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries, said although the bout of rain that hit the province earlier this week was well received by area farmers, it’s simply not enough.

He said fortunately Tantramar is blessed with the dampness and humidity from the Bay of Fundy and the Northumberland Strait so producers are still able to get a bit of moisture on their crops in the mornings, even when the thermometer rises throughout the day. But without some significant amount of rainfall in the forecast, those early-morning dews won’t continue to sustain the crops.

“To go much longer, it will have some detrimental effects . . . to what extent, though, is not yet known.”

Olscamp said small fruit producers are forecasting less plentiful crops if the weather continues as is.

“We need more rain, that’s the bottom line.”

Sackville Tribune Post

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Pointe de Bute, Maritime Tantramar Bay of Fundy

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