A “super bumper crop” is expected to lift farmers’ spirits after a rough start to the year in Southwestern Ontario.
"It's been a struggle since day one," said Phil Shaw, a farmer and agriculture economist based in Chatham-Kent. "It took totally radical management from almost everybody in Southwestern Ontario to get this crop in."
Shaw describes an unprecedented start to the farming season as a dismal wet spring that pushed back planting for farmers across the region.
Across the map, crops are at least a month behind and some never even made it into the ground.
“It’s definitely been the most difficult year of my career,” said Shaw.
The difficult start to the season has delayed food hitting kitchen tables and has hurt farmers’ bank accounts.
"We need a wide open fall and constant rain and extremely warm weather this summer to make this work," said Shaw.
Despite the horrendous start to the growing season — optimism is beginning to sprout.
"We spent all winter planning for the next year and it was all thrown in the garbage and re-assessed," said Sarah Graham, co-owner of Sarah’s Farm Market in Chatham.
While Graham’s has been impacted in the same way many farmers have, she says timely rain and extreme heat this summer has helped to replenish inventory.
"It's got all the makings of a super bumper crop probably way better than an average year," said Shaw.
"Pretty happy with everything right now the way it turned out," said Peter Choma, fellow co-owner of the market.
Chatham-Kent farm specialist Kim Cooper says farmers always seem to find a way but, admits the season shifts are getting more common.
"We're getting more and more late springs, but we're also getting more and more late falls,” said Cooper. “The physical stress and the family stress — that's very real in farm families and we realize more and more but a year like this just exacerbates that a lot."
As the recovery continues, the only concern now is the cold — and what follows.
“The last thing we need is an early frost,” said Cooper.
"Nobody wants an early frost because that would be disastrous,” said Shaw.