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A visit to a B.C. farm amid the summer drought

What does B.C.’s worsening drought mean for farmers? Nothing good — but there’s plenty of work happening to figure out how to adapt to our unpredictable new reality
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Two cows eating hay
Matt Simmons is no stranger to just how hard it can be to grow your own vegetables or raise chickens and pigs.

So when our northwest B.C. reporter heard some chatter about a hay shortage — right as the province’s worsening drought parched the land left untouched by wildfires — he knew it wasn’t good news for farmers.

Turning to a Facebook group where he had once procured some tin for a chicken coop, Matt posted: would anyone like to talk to me?

Yoenne Ewald responded. She has a small farm near New Hazelton, B.C., and has been struggling to find hay to keep her cattle alive.
 
“We talked about the shortage, and then I was like, ‘I want to interrupt for a second and ask, how are you doing?’ ” Matt told me. “There was a really long silence, and then I heard crying.”
 
Farmer Yoenne Ewald on her farm in New Hazelton, B.C.
Ewald invited Matt to her farm to see things first-hand: she’s sold three young female cows at a loss, and has been forced to feed her livestock old, half-rotten hay. The local slaughterhouse is booked up; government support won’t come fast enough. Her only options right now? “Sell them for nothing or watch them starve.”

“If I can’t feed my animals,” Ewald said, “I can’t feed my community.”

As unpredictable weather patterns bring new problems to grapple with, farmers are innovating to adapt to the changing climate — while many communities explore how to improve their food security and sovereignty (B.C. reporter Steph Kwetásel’wet Wood is working away on a whole series about this — keep your eyes peeled next month!). 

For Ewald, she’s already in the process of implementing sustainable farming practices to better protect her livestock against future droughts, though that process could take about a decade to fully come to fruition.

Matt will continue to look at how hot and dry weather conditions are impacting farmers and food production. Until then, go read his feature here.

Take care and stay cool,

Karan Saxena
Audience engagement editor
Karan Saxena's headshot

P.S. If you are a farmer affected by drought, Matt would love to hear from you. Email him: matt@thenarwhal.ca.
A person rubs climbing chalk on their hands before bouldering in Squamish, BC.

Can you say fellowship?


Remember this incredible photo essay by Katherine Cheng on Ontario’s planned Highway 413 or this stunning one by Ryan Wilkes on sound and the loss of the world’s last quiet spaces? 

Well, those were produced as part of The Narwhal’s photojournalism fellowship — and we’re overjoyed to share that the program is back for its third straight year!

We’re once again partnering with the fine folks at Room Up Front to offer two new fellowship opportunities for emerging photographers who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

We cover lots of stories that impact the lives of Indigenous and racialized communities, but too often those stories aren’t told by Indigenous or racialized journalists. This fellowship is one small way we work to help change that.

Applications are now open for participants in Room Up Front’s 2023 mentorship cohort! The deadline to apply is Sept. 11. 

We’re especially grateful to The Reader’s Digest Foundation and all of our members who together allow us to keep running this program.

 
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This week in The Narwhal

Death notice for Grace, the 125-year-old Ontario snapping turtle
The mysterious death of Grace, a beloved 125-year-old snapping turtle
By Fatima Syed
Citizens and conservationists across Ontario’s Haliburton County worked for years to protect Grace from speeding cars and development. How could she have died 15 kilometres from her home wetland?

READ MORE
 
Site C dam aerial photo
Site C dam builder fined $1.1 million for discharging contaminated wastewater 
By Sarah Cox
READ MORE
 
Silhouetted trees grow in wetlands as mist rises above water
Peatlands are swampy vaults for toxic chemicals. Wildfires are setting those toxins loose
By Colin McCarter & Mike Waddington
READ MORE

 

What we’re reading and watching


For The Globe and Mail, Frédérik-Xavier Duhamel writes about amateur entomologists who are using their love of bugs to document insect loss in Canada. 

Whatever happened to the polar bear, once a symbol for the climate movement? Grist’s Kate Yoder breaks it down.

KǪ̀K’ETÌ: a film about disappearing caribou, the people who care about them and a story of resiliency and survival in the face of nearly impossible odds.
When you find out The Narwhal’s photo fellowship is back for round three. Tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter so they don’t miss our latest, greatest visual journalism.
 
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