Unexpected July Frost Kills Farmer's Crops, Yellowknife.

by Jenn Smith July 30, 2019

An unexpected mid-summer frost has taken a Yellowknife area farmer by surprise — killing about $1,000 worth of her crops overnight.

"Yesterday was a sad day, an unusual day," said France Benoit, owner and operator of Le Refuge Farm by Madeline Lake, 25 kilometres outside of the city.

Benoit said she was starting her daily checkup around her farm before her morning coffee Sunday, when she noticed something out of the ordinary.

"I've got a wheelbarrow and I noticed that there was ice in it," said Benoit. "At first I was in disbelief. I thought maybe it's just the angle of the light. I touched it and indeed it was very heavy ice." 

Benoit knew what this meant for her crops.

"Immediately, my heart sank."

Benoit said her large zucchini and pumpkin patch took the hardest hit.

"There they were —  just completely frozen," she said, estimating there were about 100 plants in total. 

A lot of her bush beans were also affected, and of about 15 tomato plants outside, "practically all died," she said. 

Benoit grows mainly greens and root vegetables. She's been selling her crops at the Yellowknife Farmers Market for seven years now, but has been gardening at her Madeline Lake home for 27 years.

She said while she does get the occasional summer frost, she's never seen anything to this extent.

"There's been, in the past, very spotty small frost — light frost. This is by far the heaviest frost I've ever had," said Benoit.

Benoit said later in the season, she would put white insulation cloths on top of her plants. 

"This was such a heavy frost that even that would not have done it," she said. "To see them all vanish like that so quickly, I didn't see it coming." 

Environment Canada says frost happens

The coldest temperature recorded at the Yellowknife Airport overnight Sunday was 5 C, said Environment Canada meteorologist Sara Hoffman.

Hoffman said it's not unusual to see frost in the summer in the Yellowknife area.

"[Sunday's] overnight low was not a record overnight low by any means," said Hoffman. The lowest temperature recorded for July 27 is 4.4 C in 1952 and the lowest for July 28 is 3.9 C in 1969, said Hoffman.

Hoffman added that typically, frost happens at 0 C or below, but said it's possible temperatures were cooler near Madeline Lake for a frost event.

"During the course of the day, the sun will heat the surface of the earth," explained Hoffman. "As the sun goes away at night, if we don't have clouds to trap the heat reflecting back to space, then we get a rapid cooling at the earth's surface."

And that could help create frost. 

"It was quite clear overnight in Yellowknife. So it does seem plausible that ... in low-lying areas, [we] could have seen cooler temperatures than what the airport reported," said Hoffman.

"I am in a lower area, but [I've seen] nothing like this," said Benoit. "I guess this is the new normal."

'Nature can be wild at times'

Benoit estimates the loss to be about $1,000. 

"Financially, this is a big hit for me," she said. 

She said she shared her story on social media because she wanted to show people that farming doesn't always create happy, beautiful moments. 

"I wanted to convey that nature can be wild at times, and this was one of those moments," said Benoit.

She said she will busy for the next few days getting ready for an open house on Wednesday, and replanting vegetables in hopes to grow more crops before the end of the farmers market season. 

Benoit said she'll salvage what she can from the frozen zucchinis and pumpkins and cook and bake goods out of them, to make up for the lost crops.

Story re-posted from CBC. Written by Priscilla Hwang.

Jenn Smith
Jenn Smith