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With this week’s blazing summer heat and sun, patches of bright yellow canola flower have begun bursting out in dazzling displays of color across Essex County.

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“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said one ice cream-licking visitor outside Here’s the Scoop parlor near Harrow on Friday. Surrounding that business, connected to gift shop Priscilla’s Presents at 1195 Iler Rd., are acres and acres of canola that began flowering on Thursday.

“Friends up the street had (canola) last year, and it was really pretty — my husband thought it looked kinda cool, and he decided on this,” said Tracey Cipkar, gesturing to a 35-acre sea of ​​yellow. With an azure blue sky above and a cherry-red barn next to the field, the palette of primary colors is stunning.

Mike Cipkar, 58, has been farming all his life but decided to add canola this season in large part because of all the selfie-shooting visitors he saw crowding Essex County rural roads last spring. He thought it might draw additional business for his wife’s retail enterprises.

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People are flocking to it because it’s so pretty

canola, planted last September, reaches peak color in the coming days and should last another week before the flowers turn to seed and the plant goes brown, with harvesting around Canada Day. Local food producer ADM Windsor crushes and processes the crop into vegetable oil and livestock feed.

A 35-acre field of blooming canola next to Scoop Ice Cream and Priscilla's Presents on Iler Road in Harrow, is pictured on Friday, May 13, 2022.
A 35-acre field of blooming canola next to Scoop Ice Cream and Priscilla’s Presents on Iler Road in Harrow, is pictured on Friday, May 13, 2022. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Witnessing crowds of enthusiastic visitors flocking to the county last year to snap photos of canola growing on farm fields, Mike and Tracey Cipkar decided to give the cash crop — huge in western Canada, but relatively uncommon in Ontario — a try this spring.

“People are flocking to it because it’s so pretty,” said Tracey.

It was a good business decision too.

Seventh-generation farmer Greg Iler, who is growing about 200 acres of canola this year just down the road, said canola prices have nearly doubled in just two years and are approaching record levels. He attributes that to widespread drought in the prairie provinces last year, as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both events of which have tightened global supplies.

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The nearly 1,000 acres of canola planted last fall in Essex County was up from the previous year’s 700 acres, but it’s a minuscule amount compared to the more than 20 million acres planted in 2020 in Canada’s three prairie provinces. According to Scott McLean, a part-time farmer who also grows canola locally (and works for ADM Windsor), the 10,000 acres of canola crops in Ontario compare to about two million acres of corn and about three million acres of soybeans grown in the province .

McLean said about a third of this year’s local canola plantings was ruined due to a wet and damp winter.

Iler said his canola crop is a small percentage of his total cash crop acreage that includes corn, soybeans and wheat. But he also gets a kick out of passing motorists spotting his golden crop of canola, pulling over to the side of the road, getting out, “turning around and getting a good selfie.”

He said even his family has gotten in on the act.

“We had a family friend take photos of us, so I can appreciate that,” said Iler, who works the farm and lives on the Town of Essex road that both sport his family’s name.

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A vintage pickup truck sits parked outside of Scoop Ice Cream and Priscilla's Presents on Iler Road in Harrow, where a 35 acre field of canola is currently in.  Bloom, on Friday, May 13, 2022.
A vintage pickup truck sits parked outside of Scoop Ice Cream and Priscilla’s Presents on Iler Road in Harrow, where a 35 acre field of canola is currently in. Bloom, on Friday, May 13, 2022. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star
A 35-acre field of blooming canola next to Scoop Ice Cream and Priscilla's Presents on Iler Road in Harrow, is pictured on Friday, May 13, 2022.
A 35-acre field of blooming canola next to Scoop Ice Cream and Priscilla’s Presents on Iler Road in Harrow, is pictured on Friday, May 13, 2022. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

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