BEETON — A Simcoe County potato farmer pulled large fish out of his fields after a flash flood left much of his crops dead and rotting, leaving him with what he says is a loss of $2.5 million.
Barry Dorsey told Farmers Forum that a flash flood in late June left 450 acres of his 1,000 acres under water. Municipal drains filled and left the water sitting in his field for four days, killing off his crop and leaving fish as the only living things in what were once fields of carrots, onions and potatoes, he said. He added that the Township of New Tecumseth would not take responsibility for his losses. He farms near Beeton, 30 minutes south of Barrie.
“There were five-pound carp swimming out there,” Dorsey said. Though the area had seen constant rainfall throughout the spring, Dorsey said that the farm had been doing alright up until the surge of water. Then, water came raging onto his land, covering it underwater in half an hour by up to 30 inches. “It was like a tsunami. I don’t know where all that water came from all of a sudden.”
Dorsey contacted his township of New Tecumseth, which told him that the water was the result of normal runoff, he said. “They called it the storm of the century,” after the area was deluged with 4.5 inches of rain in eight hours. “But it was eight hours after the rain stopped that I got flooded.”
He also spoke with his local conservation authority, which told him the runoff was from Orangeville, about 30 minutes southwest of New Tecumseth. “Did it all run off the hills of Orangeville and come at me all at once? I don’t know.”
Dorsey estimated that the loss of nearly half his crop will cost him $2.5 million between lost profits and lost investments in the land. Potatoes, carrots, and onions are all expensive crops to grow, he said. Onions cost him $5,000 to $6,000 per acre. He plants some of them in a greenhouse and transplants them when they are five inches tall. Potatoes cost him $3,500 per acre, while carrots cost $3,000 per acre, he said.
Without crop insurance to cover the loss, Dorsey said that he’ll have to decide whether or not to sell some land or get rid of the farm altogether. High premiums for crop insurance kept him away. “It would’ve been good (to have) this year, but nobody expects something like this to happen.” Under normal growing conditions, he said it’s very difficult for growers to recoup their costs.
“I’ve still got a half a crop left. I need to see what the yield and quality is. Then we’ll see how big of a shortfall we got and what the game plan is.”