Cold snap damages vineyards, Christmas tree farms in Maritimes
In some Maritime provinces, the Grinch is getting to work early.
Lingering frosty weather has been damaging crops across the Atlantic region, threatening growth on popular vineyards and Christmas tree farms. The Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia estimates that the Yuletide staples took as much as a 15 per cent loss in the province.
At a tree farm near Antigonish, farmer Chrissy Trenholm said June is a pivotal time in the life of the holiday trees, just as it is for other plants.
“This is the most important time for a Christmas tree. It’s at its growing stage,” said Trenholm, whose family has been in the business for more than four decades in Caledonia Mills. “No one wants to buy a Christmas tree that has the ends all turned up and brown on it. It doesn’t grow. The ends are dead.”
Though the frost isn’t hitting every farm, or even every tree on the farms that have seen frost, the damage can be killer. “It hits the lower part of the tree worse than the upper part,” said tree farmer Norman MacIsaac. “It’s while they’re tender is when the frost can do the damage. When they’re hard enough, frost is actually good.”
While advice within icy areas has been for people to keep plants indoors at night, that tip isn’t really useful for farms like Trenholm’s. “We can’t go and dig up our Christmas trees and take them in,” she said. “So we have to suffer it out.”
Some 300 kilometres west of Trenholm’s farm, growers in the wine industry gathered at Benjamin Bridge Winery Tuesday to discuss the frost that has been impacting their wineries. They won’t know the full extent of damage for a couple of weeks, they said, but what’s happened already has been unique.
“This is an exceptional event,” said Gerry McConnell, owner-founder of Benjamin Bridge, who recently set fires on portions of his crops to help prevent further frosting. Vineyards haven’t been threatened this badly in more than 10 years, he said. An overnight frost on Sunday could just be the beginning of a bad season.
McConnell has heard from some growers that their crops have been “devastated” and “wiped out.” Some won’t be able to produce any product this year, he said. Still for others, the impact has been “negligible.”
“To be in this business you have to be really positive and a little crazy,” he said. “When you put those two things together you can think yourself through some of these real difficult situations.”
With reports from CTV Atlantic’s Dan MacIntosh and Laura Brown