With memories of Post Tropical Storm Dorian still fresh in his mind, Barry Balsom is keeping a close eye on the weather during hurricane season.
"We have never had back to back years for hurricanes on PEI and I hope that trend holds," said the co-owner of Arlington Orchards. "I am pleased with the way things look right now in our orchard and if the hurricanes stay away, I will be a happy man."
The damage caused by Dorian resulted in the loss of approximately 200 trees out of the 10,000 in his orchard. It also knocked apples off of the trees that were not ripe enough to be sold with Honeycrisp, (which is one of the most popular varieties) particularly vulnerable to the wind.
As well, the storm virtually wipe out his pear varieties.
Despite being one of the driest summers in recent memory, the veteran grower said his apple crop held up well. He noted "they have deep roots and we seemed to get just enough rain at the right time."
Balsom said the early varieties were a really good size and the Honeycrips and Ginger Golds are looking really good. Arlington Orchards will be operating a U-pick this fall and Balsom said they will be strictly following the protocols put in place by the Public Health Office. He said the children's play area, which has always been a popular attraction for the younger set, will not be operating.
Following the storm last September, the PEI Federation of Agriculture led an effort to document the crop and livestock damage in support of an AgriRecovery application. The application was submitted earlier this year by Agriculture and Land Minister Bloyce Thompson to his federal counterpart, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie Claude Bibeau.
Federation Executive Director Robert Godfrey is disappointed there has been no word yet on the application but suspects the process has been slowed down by COVID-19. He too is hoping the province will escape another hurricane in 2020.
"September has been a pretty good growing month with a mixture of some rain and sunshine," he said. "The soybeans got some much needed moisture and the corn crop looks good with harvest starting in a few weeks.
Corn was one of the hardest hit crops during Dorian as fields across the province were flattened delaying development of the crop. The corn that survived was then hit by several frosts later in the month.
The federation worked with a number of other organizations including the Dairy Farmers of PEI, Island Grains and Proteins Council, PEI Apple Growers, PEI Cattle Producers, PEI Horticultural Council and the Grain Elevator Corporation to document all of the losses resulting from the hurricane and its aftermath.
The damage to corn and other forage crops made it challenging for many livestock producers in the province to secure feed over the winter months.
Rather than an ongoing program producers can apply for, AgriRecovery is designed to help in cases of extraordinary circumstances like extreme weather or market events. The PEI potato industry filed a similar application following a disastrous growing season in 2018 and received a $15.3 million funding package under the program almost a year later.