Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A fairy tale season

Cinderella season: A situation in which competitors achieve greater success than would reasonably be expected.

  The winter of 2017- 2018 is quickly turning into one of the coldest on record.  It is -23 degrees Celsius here at the farm as I write this , yet another in a week long string of record-breaking cold days.

  December 28th was colder in Toronto (-22 degrees C.) than at the North Pole, where Santa was basking in balmy -18 degrees C. warmth.

  It wasn't supposed to be this way. Environment Canada's senior climatologist Dave Philips, who forecast a milder than usual winter, has already (after 10 days of winter!) issued a mea culpa:

   "Egg on my face is something I deal with a lot", he said in an article in the Dec. 28, 2017 issue of the Toronto Star.

  It is still early days, and we can only hope that Mr. Philips is right in the long term.

   I' m not sure why we have such a fascination with long range weather forecasts, but one thing is for sure: the word "normal" no longer applies. Several long range prognosticators hedged their bets for the 2017 growing season and said that it would be a "normal" year.

  The evidence to the contrary can be bench marked by four different T.V. and newspaper stories about the farm in 2017. Three of the four stories occurred largely due to or only because of the abnormal weather that we were experiencing. A look back:

  By the June 1st we were already two weeks behind due to a wet, cold spring. Anwar Knight, from CTV weather came early one morning to talk about the unusual spring and how it was affecting us.

  Anwar asks great questions and is extremely kind about listening to my answers. It can be tough for farmers to get our message out when we are busy, so my hat is off to him for doing just that. A wonderful envoy and genuine nice guy:

  By August 1st, we were not only two weeks behind, but our fields continued to be covered in water from relentless heavy rains. Our local newspaper had a monthly supplement in August with the headline: "Special Report, The Rains of 2017" with a picture of an odd looking local farmer taken in a brief moment of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day.

   David Tuley, Stouffville's  economic development officer, who understands the importance of farming to the area was the impetus behind this supplement. He is another delightful man to work with:

  On September 1st, the temperature in the morning was 5 degrees Celsius, which did not bode well for a late frost (i.e. later in October.) Every farmer in Southern Ontario watched and waited for Mother Nature to deal the cards for September.....

  Most of us got four aces. If ever the word "miracle" could be applied to a month in 2017, September was that month. I keep a daily journal, which includes a description of the weather. In the sixteen days between September 12th and September 27th, the word "sunny" appears sixteen times, along with daily highs in the high twenties or low thirties.

  On September 26th, CBC news stopped by to do a story on how all the hot, dry weather was negatively affecting farmers. We had some damage, mostly due to sun scald on our vegetables, but I  pointed out that all the hot, dry weather had indeed saved our season. The loss of a percentage of some crops was collateral damage that we could live with.

  The interview was on radio and T.V., but the only record I have of it is online. A tip of the hat to CBC for taking farmers' concerns to a broader audience:

  On October 2nd, CITY T.V. stopped by dark and early to do several segments at our farm to kick off  Agriculture week In Ontario. Our Pick Your Own fields were in full on mellow fruitfulness mode.

  The season that looked like a train wreck a month before had turned into a first class ticket on the Orient Express.

  Many thanks to Kelly Ward of the Ontario Minsitry of Agriculture and Food and our neighbor and friend Cathy Bartolic of Ontario Farm Fresh for  submitting our name for the Breakfast Television piece. Both are wonderful ladies to work with and obviously focused on getting the farm fresh message out there. It was a lot of fun and a great source of publicity for our farm:

   It was a fairy tale season all right: part Cinderella story and part Goldilocks.

  2017 wound up being our best ever year on the farm, a fact that still amazes me. We feel extremely blessed and grateful for the fortuitous change in the weather and humbled by the magnanimity of a kind and long-suffering God, who had his hands full in 2017.

  A huge thank you to all of our loyal customers, who stood by us and waited until those vegetables were finally ready. It was a compressed selling and picking season that demanded a large helping of patience on your part. You didn't disappoint us.

  We wish each and everyone of you a healthy, happy 2018 that is memorable for all the right reasons.

  And, dare I say, a normal growing season.