Lambton farm leader urges mental wellness checks after a very soggy July

Haggerty Creek’s silos are reflected in pooled rainwater in the fields of Dawn-Euphemia July 28. Environment Canada says Lambton had 172 mm of rainfall in July - close to the record set in 1892 when 192 mm fell. Heather Wright Photo

Julie Maw says after one of the wettest Julys on record, it’s time to check on the mental wellness of your Lambton farm friends.

Maw, the local director of the Grain Farmers of Ontario, says Lambton County had one of the wettest Julys on record with 172 mm of rain according to Environment Canada. That’s almost seven inches.

Historically, Lambton gets about 33.1 mm of rain in July – just a little over an inch.

Statistics from Environment Canada show it has been a decade since July was so wet; in 2013 about 131 mm fell.

In some places, including at Maw’s Brigden home, farmers recorded far more rain than the official record. Both Maw and Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott – a former GFO local director – say they received 12 inches of rain in July.

“Lambton County is just not on the same page as Mother Nature is a nice way of saying it,” says Maw. Farmers, particularly in south Lambton are “struggling” with lots of water which damaged some wheat crops.

“They just can’t seem to turn the tap off,” Maw says adding once the wheat harvest rolled around the rain kept falling and “they just couldn’t seem to catch a break.”

Maw says the quality of some grain was downgraded because it began to sprout. People growing wheat for seed ended up selling it to feed livestock because it didn’t meet seed quality standards.

“If you’re sending it off for feed you’re not getting your top dollar and it takes a lot – that tractor is going to go down the field the same amount of time. The guy that had the best wheat has the same cost involved as the guy that whose (wheat) didn’t make it.”

Maw says there are also consequences for livestock farmers. For some, the hay they need for their animals is still lying wet in the field.

Marriott considers himself fortunate. His wheat was damaged, but not enough to lose money on his contracts. It was close, though. “We were only one rain away from a total disaster,” he tells The Independent.

“Everybody was so diligent to get out and do it when they could …everybody’s so scared that they were doing it every minute they could and that’s what saved you from total disaster.”

Marriott – like many other farmers – ended up drying grain, increasing the price of production. For someone who sold on contract, like Marriott, the price was still considered good. But farmers trying to sell their grain now are facing the lowest wheat prices since Russia invaded Ukraine, the world’s largest wheat producer.

The low prices coupled with the constant rain is taking its toll according to Maw.

“I call farming one heck of a gambling game,” she says. “You’re gambling with crops and the weather, and you just got to kind of wait it out.”

And that, Maw says, take a toll on farmers’ mental health.

“These are the prime times you need to check on your fellow farmers.
“It’s a hard time when you’re sitting there watching it rain over and over. It puts a lot of stress on the mental health of farmers. And I think how everyone can help each other and their community is looking out for your farmer.

“That’s a phone call, that’s a coffee, but I think now is the time we need to check in on our farmers.”