Canada’s East Coast farms devastated by record cold

Unusual “killer” frost causes widespread damage to crops in the Maritimes – more than 90% losses in some areas. 

Ian Hubbard, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, said record lows were set early Monday. In Kentville, Nova Scotia, the temperature dropped to almost -2 C. In other areas, it plunged to -5 C.

Gerry McConnell, founder of Benjamin Bridge vineyards, said the frost caused significant damage to his wine grapes in the Gaspereau Valley.

“The temperatures across Nova Scotia did drop down to -2 C and in some places -4 C. Those are killer frost temperatures,” said McConnell.

Curtis Millen, a strawberry and blueberry farmer in Great Village, Nova Scotia, who has a water system to warm his strawberries, estimated that one-third of his strawberry crop would be damaged, adding that other farmers without the overhead water system have incurred much greater losses. His blueberry losses are even more extensive, he said.

“We expect this type of spell to occur in April and maybe early May, but not June,” said Mathew Vankoughnett, a researcher with the applied geomatics research group at Nova Scotia Community College.

“On the valley floor it hit between -3 C and -5 C, which at that point you would see in excess of 90 per cent damage,” said Larry Lutz, president of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association.

Lutz said cherry, plumb and pear growers are experiencing the same problems.

He said he examined one pear farm Wednesday, finding it likely lost 80 to 90 per cent of the crop.

“I lost the remainder of my asparagus crop,” said P.E.I. Matt Hughes with the Island’s federation of agriculture in Charlottetown. “The frost ended my asparagus crop pretty abruptly.”