Snowfall leads to seeding delay for farmers, but some remain optimistic about early start

·3 min read
Jonathan Chamulka surveys the snowfall on his farmland near the Edmonton International Airport. His family has owned and run the farm for more than a century. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)
Jonathan Chamulka surveys the snowfall on his farmland near the Edmonton International Airport. His family has owned and run the farm for more than a century. (Travis McEwan/CBC - image credit)

Some farmers south of Edmonton had hoped to get an early start to seeding, but that's currently been delayed by snowfall. This year, demand for crops is expected to be high and so are input costs for farmers.

On Wednesday, Jonathan Chamulka awoke to a blanket of snow on his farmland north of the Edmonton International Airport. The 40-year-old farmer was hoping to get a head start by seeding his crops a little early in April, but he's still optimistic that might happen.

"I would have rather seen rain, but I'll take the moisture any way we can get it right now. So I think it'll be a good thing," Chamulka said.

"It might put a delay on us, but in the end, I guess we'll see what we get from here on out. But if we can get some warm weather with it, I think it'll help us out for putting the crop in."

Wheat farmer and vice president of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, Humphrey Banack, has a similar level of optimism. But he's hoping the forecast changes to a brighter outlook for Alberta farmers this year, especially those looking to grow feed for their cattle.

"The weather isn't supposed to warm up very quickly here. It may quickly cut into our seeding time," said Banack, who farms north of Camrose, Alta.

"We look at starting seeding about the 5th of May right here on our farm. And it very well may be some time past that before we get going."

The conditions are keeping some Alberta farmers off their fields, and it's giving them some time to focus on increasing input costs in a year when demand is high for crops like grain.

"We can't get hung up on the high grain prices. It's been nice, but as nice as it is, you reflect on the cost of fertilizer and all your inputs. Chemicals are going up, [and] equipment. It's a lot of planning," Chamulka said.

Stephen Vandervalk is a Fort McLeod, Alta.-area farmer, and the Alberta vice president of the Western Canadian Wheat Grower's Association. He points to rising fertilizer costs that have doubled since the previous year as one of the most concerning inputs for farmers at the moment, and expects it to be an expensive year to grow crops.

"You got to cut back on this or cut back on that. Those cutbacks directly impact yield. And you're not going to yield increases in this coming year, in my opinion. I think you're going to see yield decreases strictly because of inputs," Vandervalk said.

"In a year where the world's asking Canada to produce more, it's going to be very difficult for that to happen."

As for Chamulka, he's already focused on planning for next season, although predicting input costs is making that challenging. He said he's looking forward to getting back on the field to distract him from the financial side of farming as the weather eventually warms up.

Travis McEwan/CBC
Travis McEwan/CBC
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting