Several inches of snow and rain fell over May long weekend in the Medicine Hat area, and while it may have left individuals scrambling to protect backyard flowers, local farmer Nicole Neubauer believes it is good for farmers in the area.
Neubauer Farms has a series of farms throughout the Cypress County, on which they grow a variety of crops including cereals and oil seeds.
“From a farming perspective, we empathize with folks who really look forward to the May long weekend, and getting out and camping and working in the yard and planting, and this weekend was anything but suitable for any of those activities,” said Neubauer. “But what is really positive for us in agriculture is that we’ve been in a prolonged drought situation where we haven’t received a lot of significant rainfall for years, and this weekend’s weather event actually has a huge impact on us in agriculture because of the much needed moisture.”
Six inches of snow fell over the weekend, and despite temperatures dipping below freezing, most crops will be safe in Neubauer’s opinion.
“Any time there are extremes, farmers get a little concerned,” said Neubauer. “We spent the day yesterday going on a crop tour to our three different farms, and what we found is that things are still looking really good. The main reason is that even though we dipped down to minus two, the crops had a lovely white blanket of snow across them and that actually insulated them from the frigid temperatures. So as crazy as it sounds, that snow actually protects most crops.”
The root zone of the plants was filled with precipitation that should get crops off to a great start. Neubauer says low moisture levels in recent years resulted in spotty germination, but with the high precipitation levels over the weekend, farmers are feeling positive about their crops this year.
“One crop that we aren’t growing this year but that many growers have seeded in the area is canola, and canola is very fragile and subject to frost,” Neubauer said. “So I know that a lot of producers are anxious to get out and see if their newly emerged plants are still healthy – so fingers crossed that the snow in those areas covered up the canola and we’re not in a re-seeding situation for those farmers.”
The heavy, wet snow will also be good for native range, like prairie grass areas, which were previously quite dry. Because the precipitation came in the form of snow, it had the chance to accumulate and soak in, instead of just running off, which rain is more prone to do. Neubauer thinks there will be a nice response to the moisture in pasture grasses, which will be good for ranchers.
“There’s an old saying that goes, ‘If you don’t like the weather in Alberta, just wait five minutes’,” laughed Neubauer. “Mother Nature revealed how true that statement is this past week.”
Lauren Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News