Manitoba Daily

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Sumas Prairie blueberry farmers face a long recovery road

Sumas Prairie blueberry farmers will face a long road to recovery

Key takeaways:

  • Mother Nature swept out decades of hard work for blueberry farmers in Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie in a single fatal strike.
  • According to Smith, a pricey reconstruction is on the way, but it will be insignificant compared to his Sumas Prairie neighbours.

Decades of hard work for blueberry farmers in Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie were wiped away by Mother Nature in a single deadly blow.

“They spent their life working on it; they lost their homes and now their livelihoods,” said Jason Smith, chair of the Blueberry Council of British Columbia. Fraser Berry Farms in Abbotsford is also owned and operated by Smith.

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Smith claims that his Matsqui farm, north of Sumas Prairie, was spared severe damage during the mid-November atmospheric river that hammered the Fraser Valley. He claims, however, that he will not be unharmed.

“For approximately five days, I had about three feet of water in the fields,” Smith recalled. “I’m worried about all the extra work I’ll have to perform because of how long the roots were submerged.”

Smith says a costly reconstruction is on the way, but it’ll be nothing compared to his Sumas Prairie neighbors.

“Some guys’ fields still have five, six feet of water,” he said.

According to Smith, the blueberry industry in B.C. as a whole won’t suffer much because the region only accounts for a small portion of overall production. Still, a full recovery is far from certain for individuals affected.

“I don’t think those plants will ever fully recover,” he said. “If we’re talking long-term, it’ll take two years to grow plants and another eight years or more to reach maturity to get back to where they were.”

“Are you willing to put your life on the line for five years to get those plants back to half of what they were?”

According to Smith, the areas severely hit by the floods account for between 5% and 9% of the industry in B.C.

He stated, “The majority of the industry is fine.” “However, there are many growers who have been severely harmed, and they must not be forgotten because none of this is their fault.”

Source: CTV News

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