Top News

‘The stress factor is through the roof’: Windstorms a big threat to greenhouse crop starters

Emily teBogt says the stress of the April 4 windstorm that ripped through her greenhouse was what hit her hardest because of the threat it posed to her crop shoots. Had she not been able to repair the damage, she could have lost the entire crop.
Emily teBogt says the stress of the April 4 windstorm that ripped through her greenhouse was what hit her hardest because of the threat it posed to her crop shoots. Had she not been able to repair the damage, she could have lost the entire crop. - Sara Ericsson
GRAND PRÉ, N.S. —

It was the emotional toll that hit Emily teBogt hardest during an April 4 windstorm at her Grand Pré farm.

The young farmer recalls watching as her plastic and metal greenhouse was ripped apart, the doors thrown off hinges as wind beat her baby shoots of spinach, beet greens, radish, carrots growing inside the warm tunnel.

Damage was minimal, and teBogt was able to make the repairs with help from her father. But it was the stress and fear she felt most strongly – that she nearly lost her cold-hardy crop to the weather event.

“Mentally, it’s scary. But we’re farmers and we know there are days that are bad, so we brush it off and deal with it. You know most days are good, and you just wait for that good day again,” she says.

The teBogt’s Produce and Meat farmer was among the many producers across Nova Scotia to experience wind damage to greenhouses after the vicious windstorm ripped through the province.

teBogt’s greenhouse doors were dislodged from their tracks, and an entire side of plastic ripped through. She says the damage was surprising because her greenhouse is a tough model designed to withstand winter winds and snow.
teBogt’s greenhouse doors were dislodged from their tracks, and an entire side of plastic ripped through. She says the damage was surprising because her greenhouse is a tough model designed to withstand winter winds and snow.

Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture spokesperson Catherine Doyle says the general consensus within the industry was that the damage was limited to temporary structures, and no damage to permanent structures was reported.

Former federation chair Richard Melvin also says it’s a night he won’t soon forget. He says many farmers had to watch and wait as the wind thrashed through their crops as it was too dangerous to repair damage during the storm.

“Those sheets of plastic are almost unstoppable when they split. They’re just like a massive sail on a boat,” he says.

He says any farmer who sustained damage would feel stress because the baby shoots of plants inside such greenhouses can represent their whole season of crops. He says it was undoubtedly a nerve-wracking 24 hours for all.

“In dollar magnitude, it’s not major – we’re talking thousands. But the stress factor is through the roof when you go through an event like that,” he says.

Randsland Farms Inc. operations and sales manager Andrew Rand says his family also experienced high stress during the weather event that threatened to tear down their 14 greenhouses.

teBogt says stressful weather is something farmers must take in stride as they face each season.
teBogt says stressful weather is something farmers must take in stride as they face each season.

The farm moved around 1,000 trays of baby broccoli plants into their warehouse to shelter them from the wind. While he says immediate losses come in at under five per cent of that crop, the full extent will not be seen until the crop’s yield is examined.

“What tends to happen as you see those plants grow to transplant stage – three or four inches – you’ll see an obvious difference. Your yield from the greenhouse can be smaller, or the plants just won’t have the oomph they should,” he says. “But we’re pretty lucky and it could have been so much worse.”

teBogt says greenhouses can be a risk, but farmers looking to extend their season and make more money by getting a jump on spring crops see it as a worthy one to take.

The wind damage hasn’t cost her anything but time for this year, and things should begin to settle once this latest dollop of snow melts away.

“Weather is part of this job,” she says.

“You keep watching and waiting, taking it day by day, and hoping for the best. You’ve got to have a strong mind, and faith, to keep going and that it’s going to be alright.”

Sara.Ericsson@kingscountynews.ca

RELATED:

Recent Stories