Farmers optimistic for season ahead, but new challenge arises

Planting season is underway, and for Barrie Hill Farms, it's been an easier start than last year, thanks to a reduction in pandemic restrictions.

"The last two years of COVID have been very difficult in getting workers from Mexico and Barbados here to the farm. This year it has been much smoother, much easier," says owner Morris Gervais.

Despite the recent wet weather, Gervais says things have been looking good as multiple crops are already in the ground.

"I'm always really happy when the warm weather doesn't come too soon. The season is progressing slowly. We don't have any buds or blossoms open yet. If they open too soon, they can get frost, and that can be a problem," he adds.

But it's a different story over at Fernwood Farms, where owner Kevin Ward says their season was delayed by over two weeks, with some of their asparagus ruined by frost.

"So far, this has been a cooler spring just with the wind chill. Very windy days, cold, cold days, a lot of rain.

We've still been able to get work done, but it's been slower," says Ward.

Still, the pandemic posed less difficulty getting their foreign workers this season.

Local farmers say inflation is creating the most significant challenge. 

"Fuel is double. I filled up Friday with colour diesel, and it was sitting at $2.10 a litre. That's pretty extreme, considering it was basically a dollar last year. Fertilizer is up 30 to 40 per cent" says Eek Farms owner Bill Eek.

Eek says they aren't much further behind than last year and says the moisture in the air has helped irrigation.

"As long as it starts warming up and we don't get frost or snow, we should be alright," he adds.

Barrie Hill Farms and Fernwood Farms expect to have their asparagus ready for mid-May, while Eek Farm aims to have their carrots and onions ready the first week of August.

But this year, consumers can expect to pay a little more for their fruits and vegetables.