by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Leona Dombrowsky toured the tornado-devastated apple growing area near Thornbury on Saturday and vowed to try to help growers facing financial ruin from the Aug. 20 storm.
"I will be meeting with my officials this week to review these programs to see if there is anything we might do to assist these people . . . to rebuild their orchards," Dombrowsky says.
"They explained to me how their particular circumstance doesn't enable them" to access crop insurance and other programs.
The growers "offered some ideas," about aid she says.
Damage is well into the millions for 15 growers, says apple grower Karen Ferri. Crop insurance offers $18 to replace a tree "which is an insult," she says, when purchase, planting, and nuturing a single tree for four to five years before it produces likely costs $1,000.
Ferri says one young producer had yet to harvest a crop of apples and isn’t eligible even for that money.
Karen and her husband Tom face losses of over $1 million, she says. The tornado "slices the trees off the ground . . . We had 20 acres ripped out," about 60 per cent of their production.
The Ferris had been taking advantage of the province's orchard transition program to replace their old orchard. The new dense plantings are 2,500 to 3,000 trees per acre. Debris from the tornado "took the trellis system down and just broke the trees off."
There's also an issue with growers who have rented orchards, Ferri says. There's no way for them to be compensated for the damage suffered.
"I was impressed with the people and they do seem intent to rebuild the orchards," Dombrowsky says. "I did leave with a rather heavy heart to see the destruction that had occurred." BF