High heat hinders Cariboo veggie-growers

Owner/operator of Puddle Produce Farm Brianna van de Wijngaard sells produce Friday, July 16 at the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Owner/operator of Puddle Produce Farm Brianna van de Wijngaard sells produce Friday, July 16 at the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Slow Train Farm co-owner Stephanie Bird could be found at the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market Friday, July 16. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Slow Train Farm co-owner Stephanie Bird could be found at the Williams Lake Farmers’ Market Friday, July 16. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Gladys Wheatley of Williams Lake (right) purchases some sunflowers from Debbie Lloyd of Whiskey Creek Acres. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Gladys Wheatley of Williams Lake (right) purchases some sunflowers from Debbie Lloyd of Whiskey Creek Acres. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Stephanie Bird of Slow Train Farm said hot temperatures this year meant some loss of crop. (Rebecca Dyok photo)Stephanie Bird of Slow Train Farm said hot temperatures this year meant some loss of crop. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Cariboo vegetable farmers have been feeling the heat this summer.

Not all farm-to-table produce like it hot, as Environment Canada predicts a heat-filled, dry summer for B.C. The province is not likely to see any significant rain until late next month.

Puddle Produce Farm owner Brianna van de Wijngaard wasn’t initially worried about the heat impacting her small-scale vegetable and microgreen operation north of Williams Lake at Soda Creek.

“When we had flood warnings from up north, I was a little more worried about the river,” she said Friday morning at a Williams Lake Farmers’ Market.

“Then a few weeks went by, and the heat kicked in, so the heat now is more of an issue.”

van de Wijngaard said they had to irrigate more frequently this year amid the high temperatures, which are stressful for plant tissue.

While some vegetables such as squash and tomatoes aren’t bothered by the heat, others such as cabbage, kale and peas struggle.

Read More: ‘Heat is just relentless’: Meteorologist warns of hot, dry summer ahead for B.C.

For the first time ever, van de Wijngaard pulled what is known as a shade cloth out of storage. Placed over vegetable beds with hoops, the shade cloth acted as an umbrella and only allows a percentage of direct sunlight in.

“We would kind of know what works and what helps but provided we have enough water,” van de Wijngaard said of the next potential extreme heatwave.

“Again, we’re also lucky to have a pretty reliable water source, but if we didn’t, that would be disastrous.”

Although van de Wijngaard noted they were short on a couple of staples that struggled during the heat, other crops made up for it.

Diversity, she said, meant they were not impacted as much.

Stephanie Bird of Slow Train Farm on West Fraser Road said the heat resulted in them experiencing some loss with their Cruciferous crops such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, which enjoy cooler weather.

Temperatures soaring to 40-above also influenced how much they could work.

“But overall, I’d say things are doing really well,” Bird said.

Read More: UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

The trend of hotter temperatures, however, she said, is concerning as it changes what they would typically be able to grow in an area, meaning they’ll have to shift plans if they are to continue growing.

Wildfire smoke also is not helping matters as it restricts sunlight, potentially impacting how fast crops mature.

“This kind of crazy climatic change means sometimes you can have a really cold night or something in the middle of August, and then you lose everything,” Bird said, adding it is challenging trying to keep everything watered during a heat wave.

“So you just feel like you’re always scrambling and a little nervous. I feel like we came out of it really well, but who knows next time.”

Debbie Lloyd, the owner and operator of Whiskey Creek Acres near the Rudy Johnson Bridge northwest of Williams Lake, said the hot weather burned all of their beginning raspberries and scorched the top of their peas.

It also caused new lettuce and spinach to bolt, shifting from growth to seed.

“Because everything changes through the garden through the season, you just kind of do with what you have at the time, so I don’t really stress over something that’s not there and deal with the other things that are coming up,” Lloyd said.

She added they were blessed to be able to water their garden twice a day and go inside their home when it got too hot.

“I hope we don’t have another crazy heat wave. We don’t need that.”

Read More: Ways to extend growing season in B.C.’s north explored by College of New Caledonia in Quesnel


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