NL crop farmers had a great summer, dairy farmers not so much

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Depending on which farmer you ask, it was a great year or it was a terrible year.

Ken Templeman hands his grandson Dalton a potato that was recently harvested in Musgravetown, Newfoundland & Labrador. Clearview Farms' growing season was two weeks ahead of last year, said Templeman, who is already taking some crops out of the ground. The main harvest will begin in September.

Ask a crop grower like Ken Templeman and it was a great year, with lots of sunlight and just enough precipitation.

"For me, I'd say it was the earliest time I got stuff on the market. We had the sun and we had enough rain to make it grow good," said Templeman, who with his family and father before him has been operating Clearview Farms in Musgravetown (Newfoundland & Labrador) for over 40 years.

He said compared to last summer, his crops are well ahead of where they were, saying his potatoes, turnip, cabbage and carrots will be reaching the market at least two weeks earlier.

"Last year we had a wet summer, so it's a lot different than last year," he said, adding any more rain the area sees will only be a benefit to keep the rest of his crops growing until they're ready to come out.

Templeman is cautiously optimistic about what the fall may bring, but is ready for whatever may come.

"We're living in Newfoundland, we've got to wait and see because it could change."

He said, however, things haven't been roses for all farmers across the province, saying some have been put in dire circumstances.

"Lots of places weren't so lucky. Toward St. John's they didn't get the rain that we got," he said, also explaining how the dry summer had a severe affect on hay stocks, leaving dairy farmers in a tough spot.

If you ask a dairy farmer how the season was, you're likely to hear something like this:

"It's probably going to be the tightest year we've ever had," said Jeff Greening of Sunrise Dairy.

The drought currently being experienced in the American mid-west is drastically reducing the availability of forage, compounded by the poor growing conditions north of the border, making this a tight year for any farmers with livestock to feed.

Greening said most of their forage traditionally comes from the U.S..

"What we found out is that Ontario didn't have a good year either, so they're down in the Maritimes buying up forage," explains Greening.

"So what that has done is basically doubled the price, or more, that we're going to end up paying this year for forage."

What that also translates to, said Greening, is farmers will also have to settle for lower quality forage than they are used to.

In extreme cases, he also said some farmers he has spoke with in the province can no longer afford to keep some of their animals.

The lack of precipitation has caught a good many farmers off guard, explains Eugene Legge, a chicken farmer who is currently president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.

"It started off great, I mean everything was three weeks early, but of course, not having the rain we normally get has been a burden. A good case was out in Cormack (on the west coast), where it was the first time ever they had to water the transplants after they put them in."

Legge said a lot of farmers have been depending on irrigation and other sources of man-made precipitation to offset the weather, or lack thereof.

"Every time you turn on a pump, it's cost you normally don't bare," he said.

Legge also explained there's been another problem facing dairy farmers this year.

"For the dairy side, it's been a bonus to get the first cut off, but they've had an infestation of army worm. It's pretty well devastated their second crop. They're hurting big time."

With the glaring example of dairy farmers, strawberry fields have also suffered, but Legge said for the most part it's been a favorable season.

"Irrigation is something we normally don't do in this province; let's face it, we know what the climate is like, but that hasn't happened this summer. From what I've seen out in the fields so far, the boys are going to have a very good crop.

"I think we are going to have a real good harvest except for the hay crop. The benefit is, if we get a good fall, we will see an extended growing season."

However, Legge also says you can't have a summer like this in Newfoundland without some sort of repercussions.

"I feel we're going to pay for this summer sooner or later. We've had two out of four seasons so far, how many times do you have spring? We normally have extended winter, so everyone figures we are going to pay for this beautiful weather some way. I hope we start getting regular seasons. I don't like this freezing rain (we get instead of a regular spring).

"I'd say we were 9/10 (for a growing season). In some areas it might have been 10/10. We never got the rain we needed."

The Packet

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, U.S. Ontario Cormack

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