An unusually long and cold winter in Ontario, like in much of North America, is causing mixed scheduling issues for growers.
Some growers are experiencing a slight pushback in the growing season.
Temperatures this spring in Ontario were below average, and in combination with rain they have caused a few issues with the crops in the providence.
As a result of the cold weather, Paul Smith, co-owner of Smith Gardens, Queensville, Ontario, said they had been unable to get on the fields as soon as they had in previous years.
“Maybe we still have time to catch up,” Smith said.
The long winter made spring weather come later this year. However, crops don’t seem to be overly affected. The main issue at hand isn’t damaged or small crops. It’s timing.
Couple of weeks off
Paula Fett, co-owner of S. Fett Farms, LaSalette, Ontario, said although the company normally tries to have potatoes ready by Father’s Day, they won’t be available this year. S. Fett Farms’ 300 acres of potatoes won’t be ready until at least two weeks after the holiday, she said.
“Some of the plants didn’t do so well,” Fett said.
Although production is still going strong, Paul Procyk, co-owner of Wilsonville, Ontario-based Procyk Farms, said that they are five to seven days behind normal harvest dates.
Welsh Bros. Farm, Scotland, Ontario, didn’t have problems getting things planted on time.
“We’ve been able to get everything planted that we needed to with the soil we are on,” said Charles Welsh, co-owner of Welsh Bros. “We are doing OK that way.”
However, Welsh said he expects delays with his sweet corn harvest. He said he doesn’t think his 600 acres of sweet corn will be ready until July 10-15, a week or two later than last year.
Procyk said his sweet corn harvest will be delayed a few days too.
Bradford, Ontario-based Dominion Farms isn’t experiencing delays, said Dennie Moser, head of charge of field operations, procurement and food safety at Dominion. He said seeding was done earlier at Dominion last year, but the crops will end up being ready around the same time.
“It is a bit cooler than it should be, but it’s nothing that is really stymieing anything yet,” Moser said. ‘We don’t want too much heat to burn little tiny plants off, but when sunshine and nice weather hit them they will take off.”
Crop looking normal
Miriam Worley, pack barn supervisor at Chary Produce, Oakland, Ontario, said they have had no issues with weather this season partly because of the lack of frosts.
“There were a couple mornings with frost warnings,” Worley said. “But it never amounted to anything.”
Worley said that Chary’s crops, which include dill cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and sweet corn, look normal.
“Everything is looking good, and we anticipate a strong start once we get going in June,” she said. “But I don’t want to say too much. I feel like I might jinx it.”
But some growers are finding themselves ahead of last year, despite the late spring. Jason Verkaik, president of Bradford-based Carron Farms, said although they were planting later this year some of his crops are ahead of last year’s crops.
“Even though it was a slow start, the weather has gotten warmer, and we had a few well-timed rains,” Verkaik said. “Everything just fell into place.”
He said that last year’s rains were much more intense, but this year they were much gentler, and they have had a better effect on the crops.
Nick VanBerlo, director of sales and marketing for P&S VanBerlo Ltd., Simcoe, Ontario, is also ahead of schedule with his sweet potatoes.
“We are the opposite (of producers that were delayed),” VanBerlo said. “We got our plants in early, and they look fantastic, so we are actually about five days ahead.”
VanBerlo credits being ahead of schedule to sandy soil and timely rains.
Nightingale Farms has had a unique experience with Ontario’s weather this season. Bill Nightingale Jr. said they are both ahead of and behind schedule this year.
Outdoor crops at Nightingale are up to 10 days behind schedule, but the greenhouse crops are a few days ahead.
“It has been cool, but it’s been a good year for covered crops,” Nightingale said. “(The weather) has brought those crops ahead of schedule. Our high tunnels are the most ahead.”
Janice Leboeuf, vegetable crop specialist at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, said for the most part the crops she specializes in — field tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, sugar beets and table beets — are doing well, but some areas are dry.
“There have been a lot of field crops and hoard crops planted in the last couple weeks,” she said. “There is moisture in the ground, but it is time for another shot of rain.”
The mixed results of the weather in Ontario have yet to hinder the growers in the region. For the most part, the growers seem to be optimistic about what the season will hold.