The race to harvest: PEI farmers race to outrun Hurricane Fiona


Farmers across the island are preparing for the worst as Hurricane Fiona approaches.

Geoff Boyle, co-owner of The Grove Orchard and U-Pick, said the biggest concern he had ahead of the storm was the wind it would bring.

“If we have winds of 120 kilometers per hour when the fruit is as ripe as it is and as heavy as it is, there is a possibility that a lot of that will find its way to the ground,” said he declared.

On Thursday, teams of workers spread out across the orchard, some working to tighten the trellises used to support the trees, others picking near-ripe apples.

“Trees are loaded with fruit right now, which is probably the most dangerous time for a trellis system,” Boyle said.

“We will be tightening all wires and cables to eliminate any slack in our trellis system so that when the storm hits we try to minimize tree sway.”

You must go there if possible and try to salvage what you can.—Geoff Boyle

Boyle isn’t alone in preparing for the worst – he says other growers were making similar plans on Thursday, hoping to salvage whatever apples they could.

“The reality is you have to go out there if possible and try to salvage what you can and do the same things we did,” he said.

Across the island, other farmers were also busy preparing for the storm. For Vernon Campbell, it’s not just the wind that’s a problem, it’s the threat of heavy rain.

“If we get several inches of rain in a short period of time, you tend to get puddles in the fields and low areas of the field where the drainage is not good,” Campbell, who grows potatoes, said. cereals and fodder for livestock.

Vernon Campbell has been growing potatoes, grain and cattle fodder near Grahams Road for decades. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

“If that’s the case, the potatoes often drown, so to speak, and then rot. That’s our biggest concern right now.”

Campbell farmed 2,000 acres of land near Grahams Road, Prince Edward Island for decades.

Potatoes are no different from apples in that one rotten apple spoils the whole bushel.—Vernon Campbell

“Potatoes are no different from apples in that one rotten apple will spoil the whole bushel,” he said.

“If you harvest a low area in the field where there is rot, if it goes into storage, not only will they rot themselves, but the potatoes nearby, and a small problem becomes a big problem in very little time.”

While he doesn’t take hurricane preparations lightly, Campbell acknowledges that storms like this are a part of life on PEI.

“September is hurricane season in this part of the world,” he said.

“There have been a number of tropical storms and hurricanes that have caused tremendous damage in this part of the world and along the eastern seaboard of the [United] States too. It’s just where we live and what we have to deal with.”

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