Driving across the prairies just before Labour Day weekend, I was reminded once more what a gamble it is working the land in Canada’s breadbasket.
Farmers were working after sundown to complete the harvest which is considerably behind this year. Spring was very late, reducing that ‘window of opportunity’ to produce a crop before the frost damages nature’s bounty. The radio told us that only five per cent of the harvest was in the bin, when the normal on this date was more like twelve per cent.
Eighty years ago, my Scottish grandpa, the Balgonie banker was ruined along with many of his farmer clients when a killing frost blackened the fields just after the middle of August. Back then there were none of the modern safety nets like crop insurance.
September weather has been fabulous in recent years, and hopefully 2013 will continue that way. The prices our farmers are getting are strong, thanks to bad news elsewhere in the world. Prices for milling wheat in Europe are rising because of concern over drought in the United States. World supplies are expected to shrink because of it. Farmers on the Canadian prairies and elsewhere benefit, because of disappointing crops in the central plains of America.
That has always struck me as the ultimate mixed blessing if I ever heard one. I try to keep that in mind when reading the weather forecast. Predictions of a “Sunny and hot week” are “wonderful news” if you’re planning to waterski and work on your tan. It’s terrible news if you’re looking at next year’s income which is a field of grain that’s burning up because of a lack of moisture.
150 years ago we were told that trying to grow cereal grain in this part of North America would always be risky. As you drive by those combines, keep a good thought for the folks who take that risk year after year.
I’m Roger Currie