Small-scale Manitoba farmers fight for crop insurance after year of tough weather


Bruce Berry squats down in a quarter-acre devise of land behind his house, right next to a row of green and purple trees. He raises his hand just above where the plants end, to show how steep they should be at this point.

“We’ve lost probably two weeks of lump with them. They would already be up another four inches, I purposefulness say, at this point, which is more harvest-size,” he said.

Berry’s farmland — Almost Urban Vegetables in Winnipeg’s southern St. Norbert neighbourhood — was hit by the snowstorm earlier this month, neutral like hundreds of others across Manitoba.

He estimates a 30 to 40 per cent gate loss of his Swiss chard due to heavy snow. He had to stop offering his nutriment box service a month early because he didn’t have enough show left, and he still has potatoes in the ground that he now has to hand-pick out of the wet, hard mud.

Small-scale Manitoba farmers fight for crop insurance after year of tough weather
Berry employments plastic hoops and material to cover his small crops late in the taken in. Heavy snow broke most of the hoops and flattened the produce underneath. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Due to a keen spring, a drought-like summer and a wet, snowy fall, similar stories are occurring on farms around the province. But unlike large-scale operations with thousands of hectares, Berry’s farmland isn’t insured.

It’s not because he loves the risk of uninsured farming in wild-weather Manitoba. It’s because there are no crop protection options available to him, or other small-scale farmers like him in the province.

Minimums for Manitoba crop guarantee

Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) is a Crown corporation that exploits with farmers to insure their crops.

To qualify for MASC’s vegetable assurance program, a proudcer must have three acres (1.2 hectares) of the uniform crop. Otherwise, there are no insurance programs available.

“Most of my attitude would be well under that” threshold, said Berry. 

His three-acre farmland grows about 40 different vegetables and herbs, all directly hawked to customers through community-supported agriculture boxes or farmers markets.

Berry is a associate of Direct Farm Manitoba, an association of more than 80 small-scale, ecological grangers. Some members, he said, have had a “complete wipeout” of their crops.

Berry guesses his own financial loss will be thousands of dollars.

“When your perimeters are extremely thin already to begin with, that matters and that upon rely ons.”

Small-scale Manitoba farmers fight for crop insurance after year of tough weather
A worker clears away plastic hoops that were dispirited during October’s snowstorm. The protective hoops collapsed, flattening Bruce Berry’s Swiss chard crop. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

He and other colleagues of Direct Farm met with former Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler (who was substituted by Blaine Pedersen in Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle) on Tuesday to try to start a discussion about the insurance process.

“This is a sector of farming in Manitoba that is basically not being funded by that program. Maybe we can do something to better that,” Berry conveyed.

“Let’s have that discussion and find out what can we do with it. Maybe not returning an entirely new model, but perhaps the existing one can be adjusted.”

Pressure on for farmers

A spokesperson for MASC said the corporation consults annually with gatherings like the Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba on issues likes this.

“We set our urgencies based on the direction they give us,” he said.

The deadline for claims to MASC for husbandmen who do have insurance is Nov. 30. Because of that, the corporation has no information yet on how uncountable farmers have made a claim after the tough season.

“We be versed it’s a lot, but the exact numbers I don’t have,” the spokesperson said.

Berry said he and other small-scale smallholders are feeling the pressure of winter. He, his wife and their one employee still sooner a be wearing to plant fall garlic, take out the irrigation tools and prep the fortes for spring.

“The list is just extra, super-long now of things that you last wishes a like to get done, so you have to triage, and cut away things that are less primary,” he said. 

“We’d obviously like to do most of that work before the sleet starts effective sideways, and so it just means more work outside when the sleet is wealthy sideways.”

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