When growing season goes up in smoke

A lot of bad things can happen in farming, as we all know too well.

The soil can be too dry in the spring to seed, or it can be too wet.

Everything can start out great and then it either rains too much or decides to stop raining.

Growing conditions can be perfect throughout much of the season and then at the last minute, before the crop can be harvested, all heck breaks loose and the year falls apart.

And even if everything goes according to plan, the trains can stop running, a major market can stop buying or prices can simply swirl down the toilet.

Last year was one of those years, and it has spilled over into this spring as many farmers are forced to harvest last year’s crop before planting the next one.

There are reports that much of the canola crop harvested this spring is actually in pretty good shape, so some satisfaction can be found from knowing that all the extra trouble was sort of worth it in the end.

Not all the crop left in the field is salvageable, of course. For many of those farmers, especially cereal growers, combining is not an option, and other measures have to be taken to clear away the old crop.

One of the most psychologically difficult things to do in this case must be to burn a crop that can’t be harvested. You’re watching an entire season’s work literally go up in smoke.

Jeannette Greaves, who farms with her husband, Hugh, near Deerwood, Man., is a regular photo contributor to The Western Producer. The Greaves recently had to burn a field of wheat that stayed out over winter and couldn’t be combined this spring. The photographs she took of that day can be seen on page 14 of this week’s Producer.

In the email she wrote when she sent her photos, Jeannette talked about how unnatural it is to seed, fertilizer and nurture a crop, only to have it destroyed for a new crop. The Greaves have been farming for a long time, and Jeanette said this is the first time they’ve ever had to do that.

Now, I realize that it doesn’t make much difference whether a worthless crop is combined and then dumped in the bush or plowed down or burned. A lot of time and effort has still been wasted and the crop is still gone.

But watching it go up in smoke must be a particularly difficult thing to do.

About the author

Bruce Dyck's recent articles


Stories from our other publications