DEER LAKE — Those looking for fresh Humber Valley-grown strawberries were sorely disappointed this year, as a combination of dry weather and a bad winter made for some of the worst conditions in decades.
Farmers told The Western Star two weeks was the maximum amount of time they had this summer, if that, and one said one farmer reported not getting any strawberries at all.
Gerard Beaulieu of Rocky Brook Farm in Reidville said there were several factors that made strawberries hard to come by this season. Last winter did not provide enough snow coverage to his and other farmers' crops, so the roots died once the temperature dipped below -17C. With no cover and an early spring, frost can kill the flowers of the remaining plants. Then insects become a factor once the temperature rises.
"And then if anything survived after that we put three weeks of drought on it," said Beaulieu. "So we got hardly any strawberries after that."
He said raspberries were a different story. Raspberries are not prone to winter damage. They bloom later and in times when frost could be a factor, the frost has already passed by the time the raspberry plants bloom.
"Those can withstand the frost better and the winter, and we did have a bit of rain and that brought them along pretty good," he said. "They do things at a different time than the strawberry plants and that's why there's lots of raspberries and no strawberries."
This was also the first year in almost 20 years, Beaulieu said, that pears didn't grow, even though pear trees are some of the toughest trees he harvests.
Despite Beaulieu's pears not growing this season, he is experiencing success in a crop he planted more than 20 years ago that some would be surprised to hear can grow in this part of the world.
"I planted three types of grapes 20 years ago and this year because of no frost and the dry season, and with a 20-year-root system, it's a magic year for grapes," he said. "I did this as an experiment, but they're coming in really good this year."
If Paul Lomond of Lomond Farms in Pasadena had better luck with strawberries it wasn't by much. He said he had two weeks worth of the berries, tops, but concurred that raspberries have done better.
Lomond is already thinking a head to next season. He currently has a pile of wood shavings at his farm next to the U-pick field, which he said will come in handy next winter.
"I'll use the wood to cover up (the plants) and hopefully it will make for a better season next year," he said. "We are finding that vegetables seem to be doing better this year and we're getting a steady amount of people coming in, so we're doing all right."
More rain was forecast by Environment Canada for the end of the week. As far as this winter goes, both farmers wished for a crystal ball.