Closely observing and responding to weather fluctuations has always been key to a grower’s success, however the recent extreme heat in early July is forcing farmers to rethink plans for future resiliency.

“This heat dome was the first time where I actually felt, holy crap, here it comes. We’ve been talking about it, we’ve been hearing the impact of the droughts in some of our southern neighbours. We’re going to have to get a lot stronger about how we’re doing things and how we’re supporting each other as community members and how we can support the food producers,” said Tamara McPhail.

She and Adam Schick of Linnaea Farm gave their perspective on this 2021 summer season. The dryness of this summer means mitigating fire danger is paramount. The heat also dried the grass reducing its nutrition content, and the 11 cows who also live at Linnaea were mooing continuously during the worst of the heat. McPhail can translate this as their discontent and was concerned that she would have to supplement their diet with hay, which would mean depleting their stockpile of winter provisions.

How Linnaea's cows are adapting to the heat

Some of the cows – photo courtesy Linnaea Farm’s Facebook page

Making hay is an important annual activity at Linnaea. The first step is cutting, then what’s known as “tedding” or fluffing the hay so that it dries sufficiently to then be raked and baled. Tedding traditionally takes two days and farmers listen for the sound the hay makes when it’s ready for the next step. This year “it definitely had that sound on on the first day … and the bales were super light, too. We felt like über strong humans by lifting up these bales. I’ve never seen hay dry that fast or feel that light, and they were difficult to stack in our barn.”

Linnaea growers are grateful for the community support they receive during their haying workbees. “I never know who’s going to show up, but I’ve never felt that we are short handed.”

When asked about the dry spell, Schick replied, “The weather’s been so up and down for a long time, I would say since the early 2000s. This is my 25th year of gardening. When you farm, you see these cycles and you adapt to it. So, it’s not the weather that happened today. It’s whether you and I can do things to change the outcome.” Gut instinct and the agrarian senses play a big part in decision-making on the farm.

The conversation also touched upon climate change, local sustainability, shrinking our impact and the seed library starting up at Linnaea.

man and woman with gardening tools

Noah Davidson and Izabelle Perry from the Whaletown Garden Centre – photo courtesy Whaletown gardening centre

CKTZ also heard about the challenges of dry weather from grower Noah Davidson of the Whaletown Garden Centre, who emailed a few gardening tips:

“I tend not to expect rain in the summer and rely solely upon thorough waterings to keep the garden happy. The small amounts of rain we get in the summer are rarely enough to penetrate the soil very deeply.

The few days that we had with the extreme heat was a challenge but most plants will adapt with a little extra watering. A plant under stress from extreme heat will wilt to protect itself from the sun, which a deep and thorough watering in the early morning can help alleviate, as can misting plants with water midday, which lowers leaf temperatures.”

Links of Interest:

Top photo credit: Linnaea folk – photo courtesy Linnaea Farm Facebook page

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative