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Linden Lane Farms is prepared not scared for summer drought

Matthew Carr, local agronomist and owner of Linden Lane Farms in Krestova, says there have been both pros and cons to this year’s El Niño winter, and that he is prepared for what this summer’s drought may mean for production.  

Linden Lane Farms is a 150-acre farm in Krestova that cultivates a diverse selection of organic vegetables, small fruits, and nursery plants. Carr explains that because Krestova is already a water-insecure area with sandy soil, Linden Lane Farms has never relied on annual snowmelt for irrigation and already has systems in place to maximize irrigation during the drought season. 

In fact, Carr says the lower precipitation in the winter can be beneficial for vegetable production, reducing diseases and pest pressure while allowing him and his team to better control their crops. 

“Vegetables and berries tend to be relatively weak plants that need a lot of assistance. So, by gaining more control over the moisture they receive, it can benefit us. We have water-loving crops like celery, sweet corn, and melons, but usually, drought is defined by prolonged periods of normally low precipitation, and generally, this benefits most horticultural crops.” 

He explains how the lack of precipitation in Krestova’s sandy soil will reduce the amount of nutrition that moves down the soil profile, allowing this year’s crops to access those nutrients and prosper. 

However, Carr does have concerns surrounding wildfires and prolonged heat waves that often come hand in hand with droughts. 

“One concern we do have will be wildfire smoke for our employee safety, but also it can reduce the amount of light the crop receives, which can lead to slower growth and sometimes even impact flavors,” he explains. 

Carr says that cool-loving crops like broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, and fruit during the ripening phase could be impacted by prolonged high temperatures, but adds that the diversity of his farm has allowed him to prepare every year for the potential of crop failures. 

“The beautiful nature of being a diverse organic farm is that we know that not every crop is going to be optimally perfect each year, and some will fail, and some will excel, and these successes will make up for any economic shortfalls over the course of the season.” 

The farm anticipates some losses in their fruit orchard but is hopeful for their small fruit crops, as Carr explains they tend to be hardier than tree fruits. 

“Crops like strawberries and garlic do rely on snow protection from damaging cold, so hopefully, it remains mild while they’re exposed right now, but I also just started checking some of the flowering buds in our small fruit orchard. The warmer winter weather through December might have reduced their dormancy before the cold snap in January which could lead to flower damage and subsequent yield losses.” 

Carr, an agronomist by profession, anticipates the effects of this summer’s drought to be more detrimental to crops that rely on dry land or range production, such as hay, livestock, and forestry, and crops dependent on groundwater and shallow wells fed by snowmelt to irrigate. 

Grape and fruit tree industries are anticipating a lean 2024 yield, but Carr says his conversations with producers signal they’re optimistic, transitioning staff requirements and pruning regiments to make sure the crops have the best success even into 2025. 

Carr says that while droughts are manageable, they are challenging to adapt to, which is why the need to support local farmers is higher than ever. 

“While droughts are difficult, they’re manageable or adaptable. It’s imperative that we continue to develop local food systems that are sustainable for the community, farmers, and the environment. Make those dollars count and support your farmers. When you do see a Kootenay-grown product, or even a BC-grown product, you’re helping to support the food system that goes towards your local community.” 

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