Nova Scotia's farmers, fruit growers worry about what Fiona could mean for their harvest

·3 min read
Nova Scotia farmers are concerned about Hurricane Fiona bearing down. (Steve Berry/CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia farmers are concerned about Hurricane Fiona bearing down. (Steve Berry/CBC - image credit)

With Hurricane Fiona on track to hit Nova Scotia, some farmers and fruit growers say they're worried they could lose a whole season's worth of work in a single gust of wind.

"It's another layer of stress because we're into the fall cropping season [harvest time]," said Tim Marsh, a longtime dairy farmer, crop grower and president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture.

"Is there going to be any crop damage? Any flooding? Now there's a lot of unknowns ... everybody's watching the weather forecast."

The storm is expected to bring heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges, which could cause power outages, flooding and serious damage.

Marsh said flood and wind damage to corn is a particular concern among farmers right now, and apple growers are also facing high risk.

Dylan Jones/CBC
Dylan Jones/CBC

"The cobs are nice and heavy right now, and if you get any amount of sustainable winds or wind gusts, we could soon be getting it knocked down and that might make it unharvested," said Marsh.

"Are apple producers going to lose fruit off the trees? Is it going to get shaken off and bruised and damaged and lose quality? There's a lot of impact potential here, depending on where this hurricane tracks."

One of the larger concerns — fireblight —is not even visible to the naked eye.

"Our fireblight situation is way more concerning than any storm," said Doug Gates, who owns and operates Gates U-Pick in Port Williams, N.S.

Destructive bacteria a concern

Fireblight is a bacteria that can decimate entire orchards. It's a destructive bacterial disease of apple, pear and other related species.

It can spread from tree to tree, especially during high winds.

Eight years ago, when remnants of Hurricane Arthur struck the province, 90 per cent of Nova Scotia orchards were affected by fireblight, with about 10,000 trees lost.

Farm Safety Nova Scotia, a non-profit group, advises all farmers to have crop insurance, especially those who have crops that could be lost in the storm, such as corn, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and apples.

Randy Drenth
Randy Drenth

David Newcomb, the group's president, said people want to make sure that all structures are locked and secured and livestock is safe.

"If you have livestock on pasture, it might be a good idea to bring them inside to a building to keep them out of the weather, and if you have any barns that are in low areas, if you can move livestock to a more secure or higher ground, that wouldn't be as prone to flooding," said Newcomb.

A mental strain

Newcomb said property owners should ensure culverts and drainage systems meant to drain water away from crop areas are functioning, and that generators are fuelled up and working properly, especially those used for things like livestock area heating, feeding and maintaining water supply.

He also reminded farmers not to neglect their own safety and mental health.

"Make sure your phones are charged, make sure you have non-perishable food and water supply … any medications you need, first-aid kits, you know, that kind of stuff, so that you're taking care of yourself as well," said Newcomb.

"I know a lot of farmers that put their whole heart and soul into their farm, and they unfortunately don't take care of their own mental health as much as they probably should, so it's also important for people to be aware of that too."