It would not be a stretch to say that the world is a very different place these days. Each and every individual and community has been affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. Agriculture is no exception. In fact, many of those who work in the farming sector have been disproportionally hard-hit by rail blockades in Canada earlier in the year, price drops from everything to dairy quotas to ineffective government supports for agricultural businesses, and the loss of significant seasonal workers and employees who play a major role at farms across the country. 2020 has not been off to a dismal start – and that’s saying it lightly.
Seven Fields Farm & Orchard has also experienced its own isolation as my wife and I focus our efforts on our retail business in town. The uncertainty of how the dust will settle in the retail and farming sectors, both short and long-term, poses more questions than answers. The black walnut orchard was not fitted with tree guards/protectors over the past winter (early snows and onset cold temperatures made it impossible to anchor the guards partly in the ground) but survival has been excellent to our surprise. There is however a growing number of deer in the area that have been congregating in our fields (at least someone is getting some social interaction). These groups have appeared to be rather large with neighbours recalling up to 80 deer in one field in January. We have noticed that increased “hoof” traffic has led to some damage to tree branches but so far the spring buds on the walnut trees have remained untouched. I fear more protective measures around the walnut orchard may have to be installed this year.
The white pine which, as you may recall, was also apart of our subsidy from Forests Ontario when the orchard was planted back in 2016, seems to be doing just fine on its own. We had hoped to clear that field in 2019 and provide better care to the white pine but they are a rugid tree and fast growing. Similarly, the apple orchard appears to be doing well and this year we hope to make some significant progress in bringing parts of the heirloom apple orchard back to life with some TLC, fencing, and pruning. Yields fluctuate from year to year, as they do elsewhere, but it has always been our dream to expand our apple production and grow more unique heirloom apple varieties.
Other projects we hope to achieve this year is to complete the gravel road from the new metal storage structure to the county road, repair and install new fencing and fencing gates, dig a well, plant some ornamental trees along the county road frontage, and perhaps look at even building a sustainable structure at the farm as well. This may all sound ambitious…and it is. The uncertainty of what is left of 2020 will make it hard to predict outcomes both in retail and agriculture. Keep on truckin’ they say, right?