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Metro Vancouver farmers happy with warm, dry harvest season

Cranberry season is delayed until cool weather arrives.
W&A Farms owner Bill Zylmans expects an excellent pumpkin and squash harvest.

Metro Vancouver’s warm and dry late summer and early fall have been a boon for B.C. agriculture.

About the only complaints could be from cranberry farmers who will not have their crop ready for Thanksgiving on Oct. 10 because their berries have not yet turned red.

“The warm weather for cranberries is delaying the harvest as we are not getting colour due to warm nights,” Richberry Group owner and Ocean Spray chairman Peter Dhillon told BIV.

“That’s all we are facing now. The spring and early summer wasn’t good because we had too much water — rain.”

Dhillon still expects a bumper crop, just one that is a bit later than usual.

Harvesting cranberries does not require rain, he explained, as cranberry farmers can flood their fields to get the berries to float to the surface.

W&A Farms owner Bill Zylmans said his only concern has been that some of his red potatoes are taking longer to be ready to harvest.

“We're waiting for skin set,” he said. “Especially with red potatoes with red skins, it has to be nice and shiny. With the heat that we've been experiencing in the last 10 days, it’s taking longer for their skins to set.”

Higher input costs such as labour and fertilizer mean that Zylmans expects that he will charge about 10 per cent more for crops than he did last year. 

He has already harvested about 75 per cent of his 50 acres of potato fields because in mid-September he thought it was the right time to start getting the vegetable out of the ground. He thought at the time that waiting to harvest potatoes would come with the risk that torrential rain would wipe out some of his crop.

As it turned out, had he waited, his potatoes would have been able to grow larger and he would have more tonnage to sell to wholesalers.

“We've been irrigating a bit more to keep things growing,” he added.

Zylmans planted his pumpkins in mid-June — later than usual because the region had a wet and cool spring. He thought at the time that the late planting may mean that the pumpkins would not fully ripen.

Now he anticipates a banner year for pumpkins and squash.

“They’re coming along perfect,” Zylmans said.

“You’re seeing lots of beautiful orange pumpkins out there already now in the marketplace for Thanksgiving meals and décor.”

He has yet to harvest about 80 per cent of his pumpkins because he wants to save the harvest for the lead-up to Halloween.

Zylmans also grows brussels sprouts and bok choy on his 200-acre Richmond farm, and he is happy that he is able to harvest those crops slowly, and have a longer growing window, to let part of the harvest be more mature.

B.C. carrots tend to be grown in the Sumas Prairie, and those crops are also able to mature slowly with farmers able to take their time with the harvest.

In Langley, Driediger Farms owner Rhonda Driediger told BIV that she has also had a banner year.

“The longer, warmer weather has been good for late-season strawberries and raspberries — almost everybody is on drip irrigation,” she said.

“I don't think anyone is really complaining about the weather, yet. We know it's a coastal rainforest, and it's going to start raining at some point.”

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