Canada: B.C.'s cool, wet spring playing havoc with farmers

Everybody talks about the weather. Amir Maan is doing something about it. “You have to,” the Abbotsford farmer said on Monday. For Maan, who focuses on strawberries and pumpkins, that means a  greenhouse the farm opened in March.

Not anticipating the coldest spring in ages, perhaps, but with an eye to the future and what climate change will bring, Maan is one of a growing number of farmers turning to technology to help overcome unpredictable and sometimes debilitating swings in weather.

“Farmers are trying their best with whatever weather throws at us,” Maan said. “There is no such thing as a normal year anymore. Every year it’s a challenge now, so farmers are putting technology in to adapt. If you don’t adapt to new technology, if you don’t put these innovations in place, it’s really hard to be a farmer.”

Maan’s paternal grandparents started the farm in 1977. The new controlled-environment greenhouse grows as many strawberries on a 2.5-acre site as would have taken seven acres of field. And it is the wave of the future for farming in Metro Vancouver, according to Lenore Newton, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of Fraser Valley. The problem, she said, is farmers are encountering so many disruptions they have no recovery time. Meanwhile, bankers are getting weary of hearing about next year.

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