Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Farming Is Gambling against the Weather, and It's Worse if You Do It Alone

Getting tired of rain here, which has sent me looking for news about precipitation. It seems that good rains earlier this year in Burundi have meant good crop yields, according to he UN’s information service IRIN reports. Crops are so abundant that “prices in some markets had significantly dropped. A kilogram of beans in Kirundi now goes for 200 Burundian francs (US$0.16) from 600 francs ($0.40) previously,” the press release says.

That’s good, probably, although it points out a basic problem with farming: growing crops, as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose noted long ago, is basically gambling against the weather. If a farmer doesn’t get enough rain or gets too much, he loses when it comes to yield. If the season is good and he gets a bumper crop, he may lose also, since prices will drop as supply increases.

I thought of that sad truism today, as I watched the rain fall here for the Nth straight day. The news earlier this month had been that Saskatchewan and Alberta had received so little rain that a very bad drought was shaping up. A little of the moisture that has been falling around here could be spared for there, it seems to me.

This just in: Of course, weather systems are never that simple, and it seems it rained a fair amount on the Prairies over the weekend. But as I head out to the Jean Talon Market to see if the local strawberries are any good, despite the wet weather, I marveled again at the faith that must go into deciding to farm. Times have changed, but the risk continues. And it's worse if you do it alone, as a a couple of stories in the Globe and Mail points out. Today's item reports that Mario Bouthillier, the handsome Quebec farmer featured, made the rounds of talk shows yesterday to explain the problem.

“Hey, it's raining non-stop, I can't get in the field, so it's a good week for it,” he's quoted as saying..


Martin Langeland said...

So would a corollary to your title be that gardening is grumbling against the weather?
Happy strawberries! In the Skagit Valley ours are okay, just okay.

Mary Soderstrom said...

We've been eating local strawberries for a week--St. Jean Baptiste/Fête Nationale is the tradition start of the season. Lee is a fruitoholic and he's perfectly capable of eating a bsket all by himself for breakfast.

So far they're not terribly terrific. It helps if you douse them with maple syrup though, and I figure that doing that is fair--it's supporting local agriculture too.