THUNDER BAY - Jeff Schelhaas was visibly overcome with emotion as he looked over the damages a brief and powerful hail storm had done to his corn crops.
Schelhaas, who owns a dairy farm on McCluskey Drive in the Slate River Valley area, said the storm struck his property Sunday at around 4 p.m., causing $25,000 in damage to his corn crop alone.
“The skies opened up and it started to rain and pour, then the hail came,” he said. “It was about golf-ball size for about 15 minutes.”
Those 15 minutes annihilated the corn crop and damaged the barley crop. The hail also wrecked the roof of Schelhaas’s home. Meanwhile, his daughter’s car now looks as if it was “pebbled by golf balls.”
The hail follows a late winter and wet spring that has made things difficult for the Schelhaas farm.
“It’s impossible to get out there because we’ve had 29 millimetres of rain in half an hour, so everything’s sopping wet and saturated.”
The land is tile-drained with orange tiles underneath the soil, but it only takes half an inch of water each day.
“That 29 millimeters would take two and a half days to dry out. The weather hasn’t cooperated either, so it’s gonna be a while.”
Schelhaas is cautiously optimistic when he talks about turning this growing season around.
“Just the corn crop is done,” he said. “The barley crop might come back, and I might be able to put another crop in instead of the corn, but it’s so late in the season that it’s just about finished.”
The storm didn’t strike every area farm. Just less than a kilometer away, Belluz Farm appears to have avoided damage of any kind.
Farm owner Jodi Belluz said she heard the hail coming down for less than five seconds.
“We must have caught a little bit of a corner of (the storm), so we were really lucky.”
As a member of the farming community for more than a dozen years, Belluz said she can’t help but empathize with Schelhaas’s situation.
“Like it is with every profession, only a farmer knows what another farmer is going through and your heart just breaks when you hear that someone suffered a loss for whatever reason.”
Belluz said farmers are always trying to put whatever safety precautions they can to make the best of their growing season, but they are at nature’s mercy when it comes down to it.
“We do have a strong farming community in Thunder Bay and lots of support for each other, so we just try to be there for each other,” she said.
“We’re an optimistic, resilient bunch, so we know our neighbours will pull through for the following year.”