‘We’re going back,’ say flooded BC farmers as cleanup continues

Jeff Spitters’ shoulders relaxed the moment he opened the wooden door Friday on the second floor of one of his barns to a cacophony of screeching emanating from dozens of cream-yellow chicks running through the scented sawdust. cool.

“These birds have 24 hours,” explained the Abbotsford, BC chicken farmer with understated pride. Just a few weeks earlier, his farm was submerged in unprecedented flooding that hit the Sumas Prairie in British Columbia last month. The chicks are one of the first generations to fully grow on the farm since the disaster.

“Our focus (since the flood) has been on our animals, on rebuilding, on making sure we have a product for consumers,” Spitters said. Barely a week has passed since the waters receded completely.

Outside of the barn heat, the traces of disaster are everywhere. Stains mark the plywood lining the walls on the first floor of each barn as a worker cleans silt and dirt from a concrete driveway through the farm. Shredded zucchini from a nearby farm are scattered around the front yard.

It’s a scene reflected on farms and nurseries in hardest-hit regions in recent days, as farmers begin the monumental task of cleaning up the agricultural heartland of British Columbia.

More than half of all dairy and poultry products consumed in the province comes from the fields, barns and pastures near Abbotsford. Most were submerged for days, even weeks, during last month’s floods, causing damage that the BC Board of Agriculture estimated will cost farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture estimates that more than 600,000 turkeys and chickens, 12,000 pigs, 420 dairy cows and 120 hives were lost in the floods.

Farm workers were busy cleaning an Abbotsford farm after floods devastated the area last month. Photo by Marc Fawcett-Atkinson / National Observer of Canada.

“Farmers have fed us for years and years,” Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said during a tour of Spitters’ farm with her federal counterpart Marie-Claude Bibeau. “Now is the time to help them come back to make sure they continue (to feed us).”

Last month, the federal and British Columbia governments pledged to match donations made to the Red Cross through Nov. 26 in support of flood victims, and various produce groups have also implemented emergency relief programs. . More help will come for farmers to recover, Bibeau and Popham said Friday.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope for farmers to come back. It is devastating, (but) as horrible as it is, we are resilient,” said Abbotsford farmer Jeff Spitters. #BCInundaciones #Agriculture #Extreme weather

“We both heard the commitment from (the farmers), who are literally standing in the mud, that they just want to find a way to fix it and get back to doing what they love,” Popham said.

Spitters knows that determination well. Leaning against the plywood wall as the chicks ran for his feet, he remembered the exhausting period at the peak of the flood. For days, he waded through cold and dirty water with family, friends and staff who volunteered their time to keep his flock watered and fed. Even when the house he shares with his wife and 11-year-old son rotted in the floodwaters.

“This not only affects us at the business level. These are our family homes. These are the places where we have raised our families, where we have grown up,” he explained. Giving up was not an option.

Still, it would have been nearly impossible to recover so vigorously without the support of neighbors, friends, farm workers, and others. Help came when it was most needed: Generosity Spitters said he is doing his best to reciprocate.

“The reason we are here is our community,” he explained as he looked at his herd. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope for the farmers to return. It is devastating, (but) as horrible as it is, we are resistant … and we will return to farming.”


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