Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Farming

As I look out over my meager garden this year, I think back to when I picked fruit in the Okanagan as a lone anglo youth.   I talked a lot with the farmer to ask him about farming, especially the economics.   His answers made me really wonder why anyone would farm if there are so many risks and few realistic chances to make any money.   This year I have to wonder how the farmers in this region are managing.

This year everything is late, very late.    In my garden I was able to harvest my first zucchini yesterday, but it was not enough to for a meal - I picked them very small and took all of them I could find.

Most farmers would expect to be well in the deep of the harvest season, but that is simply not the case this year.   I look at the pumpkin field next to Michell's in Central Saanich and I am astonished to see how small the plants are, is there time for the fruit to set and ripen?

I can not imagine that there have been enough heat degree days to have any real start on grape production.   The east coast of Vancouver Island is by nature on the border of being able to ripen grapes for wine, but this year I am not sure that the grapes will harvestable if the weather does not dramatically improve this fall.

I know about bit about the climatic conditions for viticulture in BC because I worked on a project some years back to investigate the grape growing potential of Lillooet and Lytton.   At the time I was astonished to see how marginal the conditions were on the coast for grapes.   I was even more astonished when I visited some of the growers on the coast and found out they cropped at about 1.2 tonnes per acre, this is less than one third of what growers crop at in the Okanagan and under one quarter of Washington State and Oregon.

The only way grapes will ripen this year is if there is almost no crop on the plants which will mean a very low production of wine unless grapes are brought in from the Okanagan.

You can see Duncan, on the far end,
 is already much lower in degree days

This is what wine country in BC should look like



I have no idea how people growing field tomatoes will manage to harvest anything this year.  

Farmers are optimists, you could not farm if you did not believe that everything would work out perfectly.   The horrific weather this year could very likely see an end to many of the new small scale 'hobby' farmers we have seen go into production in this region.   You can only go so long losing money before you have to stop.
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