Saanich Peninsula farmers are reporting strong harvests, in part due to favourable weather.
Back in May, meteorologists were predicting a scorching summer for B.C. and Vancouver Island but, so far, the mercury hasn’t been rising as quickly as anticipated.
However, Silver Rill Corn has had its second earliest start to the season ever, boosted by March’s heatwave and the Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association says the mild conditions in June and July have made a big difference for its members.
“We plant as early as we can and Mother Nature takes care of the rest,” says Clayton Fox of Silver Rill Corn. “We have 12 acres [of early varieties] to pick and have already picked eight. We’re now onto the next field.”
Fox, along with his two dedicated pickers, has been kept busy, starting at 5 a.m., pausing for lunch and then often continuing in the afternoon. His 70-acre farm offers over 20 different types of corn.
Dan Ponchet, owner of Dan’s Farm and Country Market on Oldfield Road and president of the Southern Vancouver Island Direct Farm Marketing Association (Island Farm Fresh), says the network of farms Island Farm Fresh represents is experiencing strong sales too.
“Even the weather is good. At the moment it’s not too hot, so things don’t ripen too quickly,” he says. “People aren’t as interested in berries when it’s hot. They’re more interested in beaches and ice cream.”
Andrew Engqvist of Silver Rill Berry Farm also produces two-and-a-half acres of his own strawberries and grows an acre of garlic in Central Saanich. His Russian red variety is often the biggest on the Island, and due to the good harvest, some of the bulbs are so large, recent customers have mistaken it for less tasty elephant garlic.
“It’s been a good growing season. Both the garlic and the strawberries have been good. We’ve had some early strawberries and we’re still picking,” he says.
One unforeseen outcome for farmers has been a rise in consumer expectation with some farmers saying occasionally customers have been angry when they sell out of certain produce at their stands.
The Weather Network still stands by its original prediction of a hot B.C. summer but predicts rising temperatures might only arrive at the end of July, a month late.
To find out what’s in season or to find a farm in your area, go to islandfarmfresh.com.