By Greg Price
There are some work weekends where there is the perfect storm of seeing how a community comes together.
Perhaps not the best choice of words, or maybe exactly fitting, considering two of my assignments on Saturday involved getting a look at the aftermath of a vicious hail storm that rocked the area.
The storm that went through southern Alberta on Aug. 6 saw golf-ball sized hail and strong wind gusts up to 146 kilometres an hour, according to Environment Canada, classifying it at tornado levels. Satellite images showed hail scars 100 kilometres long in an Edmonton Journal story.
A variety of crops were devastated around the Barnwell and surrounding areas, with corn given the most attention due to the proximity of the largest free festival in southern Alberta — Cornfest, which runs near the end of August. The fast-moving system wiped out several fields of corn, which some producers say had stood about two metres tall before the disaster struck. Some of the smaller producers had their corn season end in the first week of August, in a growing season that usually has a 50-60 day window for purchase.
But, as farmers regrouped on both a micro and macro level, that was never more self evident than when this reporter went out on a couple of photo assignments.
First up was the green thumbs of volunteers with big hearts as part of The Vegetable Garden just north of Barnwell, along Huckleberry Road.
For the last few years, volunteers from different faiths, businesses and communities have gone out to the garden to both grow and harvest ample amounts of fruits and vegetables that primarily help the Taber Food Bank, but also other food banks in the region as well. Thousands upon thousands of produce has been donated to the Taber Food Bank through Vegetable Garden efforts the last few years, only to see the 2019 bounty severely handicapped due to August’s hail storm which wiped out all the above-ground crops. A little under 16,000 fewer pounds of produce were able to be produced for the food bank in 2019 compared to 2018, due to the storm.
Organizers of Saturday’s open house were on the verge of canceling the event, but rather soldiered on to show people the devastation and what it can do to food supply. A huge group still gathered to join in fellowship over hot dogs and watermelon. And while they opened up their souls to each other, so too with their wallets to the tune of over $6,800 raised in a mere hours timeline for the open house, to help the food bank’s purchasing power to replace the produce that was lost. The Vegetable Garden weathered the storm quite nicely and will be at it again undeterred in 2020.
Just down the road, going west on Highway 3 was an Open Farm Days in conjunction with Alberta Sugar Beet Growers. They too were debating about cancelling the event due to the hail storm, but they also decided to soldier on for the educational day, showing lay people myself exactly how certain crops are grown and processed to the point they reach our dinner table.
The devastation was self evident as families tromped through the field which would have otherwise been much more majestic given a regular growing season without the wrath of Mother Nature. Nevertheless, plenty of wide smiles abounded as representatives for the farm days held their tours and landowners made sure many a child was full of cotton candy and ice cream, along with sharing their expertise with a city slicker like me. A good chunk of yield was lost in the field in question, but the farming spirit prevailed over the temperament of Mother Nature where mere minutes of hail caused widespread destruction.
Switching over from agriculture to more domestic pursuits was the In From the Cold Rescue Society adoption event at Pet Valu in Taber.
While volunteers from that organization were not dealing with the power of Mother Nature, they were dealing with the ripple affects of irresponsible cat ownership.
Society members are well past capacity for their intake of unwanted feline friends, with an explosion of the cat population in and around the Taber area.
Unfortunately, not one kitten was adopted at the event even though they were as pet ready as an animal can be, getting chipped, spayed/neutered, vaccinated and deformed.
Just this week, a Facebook friend told of her frustration with a group of teenagers drying to drop off a box full of kittens at her farm.
With also some puppies to be adopted, In from the Cold Society was advocating for animals who could not advocate for themselves.
The euphoria of having added companionship with a four-legged friend lasts for a short while for everybody, but apparently, only some come to the realization that showing sufficient love for a pet is a full-time responsibility that requires ample time and money.
Having an intake line that is open well past a 9-to-5 schedule, organizations like the In From the Cold Society who deals primarily with cats and the Lost Paws Society which deals with dogs, these organizations are making a difference.
The day is always darkest before the dawn, and it dawned on me this past weekend, how many shining souls are out there.
So a tip of the hat not only to these organizations and farmers, but also any group out there in the Taber or M.D. of Taber area that give service to its community, in trying to make it a better place to live for all.