Peaches are an­other ca­su­alty of drought

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - KEVIN WERNER

With some farm­ers are call­ing this sum­mer sea­son’s drought “his­toric,” the dry, hot con­di­tions are hav­ing a crit­i­cal im­pact on Ni­a­gara and Hamil­ton agri­cul­tural crops.

And with the Wi­nona Peach Fes­ti­val’s an­nual three-day event a month away, farm­ers are con­cerned about how the peach crop will fare as July turns to Au­gust.

Anne Bridg­man, who op­er­ates Bridg­man’s Farm in Wi­nona, said the lack of rain and the ex­treme heat has been a “chal­lenge” to her crops.

The weather has pro­duced smaller peaches, she said, but they taste sweeter.

Yet the lack of rain pro­duced a good crop of cher­ries this sea­son that were read­ily picked up by ea­ger customers.

Still, the trees on her small farm where peo­ple can pick their own fruit look droopy and are in need of rain, de­spite the down­pour Hamil­ton and Ni­a­gara farms saw July 25.

“All these trees need mois­ture,” she said.

Agri­cul­ture Canada has iden­ti­fied south­ern On­tario from the Ot­tawa Val­ley to the Ni­a­gara Penin­sula as “ex­tremely dry,” with record low pre­cip­i­ta­tion. It has a rain deficit of about 100 mil­lime­tres.

Dry weather has also forced Hamil­ton to is­sue a ban on open fires, while the Hamil­ton Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity ear­lier this month is­sued a Level 1 low wa­ter con­di­tion for the HCA wa­ter­shed. The Grand River also is­sued a Level 1 low wa­ter con­di­tion for most of its rivers, with some rivers re­ceiv­ing a Level 2 des­ig­na­tion.

Phil Tre­gunno, chair of the On­tario Ten­der Fruit Pro­duc­ers Mar­ket­ing Board, called the drought “his­toric” for the Ni­a­gara and sur­round­ing area.

He ac­knowl­edged the first peach crop had fruit that were un­der­sized, but with the in­tense sun they had a high sugar con­tent that made them tasty to eat. But there are more va­ri­eties ready to be picked and farm­ers are con­cerned about how those peaches will look and taste.

Tre­gunno, who op­er­ates a 700acre farm in Ni­a­gara-on-the-Lake, said farm­ers can ir­ri­gate their crops, but it’s ex­pen­sive and uses a lot of en­ergy. But not a lot of farm­ers have the abil­ity to ir­ri­gate. In ad­di­tion, smaller fruit means it costs the farmer more to fill the con­tain­ers.

What farm­ers need, said Tre­gunno, is a sus­tained, steady rain for a few days, which could in­crease the yield. The weather fore­casts for this week­end call for a 40 per cent chance of rain for both Satur­day and Sun­day.

“We re­ally need rain,” said Bridg­man. “At least a whole day of it.”

SCOTT GARD­NER, HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

One tra­di­tion at the an­nual Wi­nona Peach Fes­ti­val is hav­ing a fa­mous peach sun­dae. Drought has re­sulted in smaller peaches this sum­mer.

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