Broken branches hang limply, while leaves are shredded—turned into see-through lace—and fruit has been punctured, bruised and, in some instances, tossed to the ground.
The devastation in orchards, vineyards and fields in Southeast Kelowna is total on some farms.
Farmers who had fertilized their plants, irrigated the roots, pruned the branches, pollinated the flowers, sprayed competing weeds, thinned the young fruit and otherwise tended their crops for the first half of this year—lost the entire crop in a half hour hailstorm Monday evening that was brutal in its fury.
Hailstones described as the size of marbles slashed leaves into ribbons along the storm’s path, broke branches and flattened whole crops, while farmers watched helplessly.
Kamaljeet Jaswal of Spiers Road has 14 acres of apples, all replanted in the past decade or so at considerable expense.
At 6:30 Monday night, he was looking out the window at an approaching storm cloud when he heard the first rustling, as dry hail began to hit the leaves of his trees.
Then the rain began and the wind, followed by more periods of hail—balls of ice the size of large marbles. There were still piles of ice around in the orchard the next morning, he says.
“Yesterday (Monday), I thought this would be a good year, with a beautiful crop of good-sized apples,” he said. Tuesday, as he looked out over an orchard littered with shredded leaves and bruised apples—fruit that isn’t even suitable for juice.
Just last week, he even put on an extra spray to help improve the quality of the fruit as harvest approaches in the coming weeks, but that $2,000 just went down the drain in a hail of ice pellets.
B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Jeet Dukhia estimates 25,000 to 30,000 bins of apples have been lost in just a few hailstorms this year, a loss of 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the valley’s crop.
Some of the growers affected by this week’s storm in Kelowna have suffered a total loss, with damage not only to this year’s crop, but also to the tree vigour and the fruit buds for next year’s crop.
Because it’s so close to harvest for both apple and grape growers, most of the season’s input costs have already been spent, yet they’ll have no income to pay them with.
Dukhia intends to invite the province’s new agriculture minister, Pat Pimm to come to Kelowna to see the damage and help growers out this year.
Buta Ghuman grows not only apples, but wine and table grapes on the bench above Kelowna and says all four locations where he grows were hit hard.
Coronation table grapes which would be ready for harvest in the next week, were flung to the ground in bunches by the hailstones, along with leaves and branches. Remaining fruit is oozing juice from the many berries that were sliced open, and hornets are gathering around the sweet bunches of broken fruit.
On the five acres of Coronations he leases, Ghuman says he grossed $50,000 last year, and it’s a total loss. He estimates he’s paid out $15,000 already this year to grow that crop.
He has no idea how he will manage with such a significant loss of his livelihood.