Orchardists Jaspal and Manjeet Sandher inspect their apple and cherry crops which were damaged by a hail storm Monday. See a video at www.vernonmorningstar.com

Orchardists Jaspal and Manjeet Sandher inspect their apple and cherry crops which were damaged by a hail storm Monday. See a video at www.vernonmorningstar.com

Hail storm wipes out orchard crop

Leaves on the four-year-old trees are shredded while the developing ambrosia and gala apples are covered in divots



Four years of intense labour was wiped out in a matter of minutes for Manjeet and Jaspal Sandher.

A powerful hail storm descended on the couple’s orchard at the north end of Swan Lake Monday, wiping out the cherry and apple crop.

“It’s very disappointing, very heartbreaking,” said Manjeet.

Leaves on the four-year-old trees are shredded while the developing ambrosia and gala apples are covered in divots. The situation is just as bad among the sweetheart, centennial and staccato cherries.

“It’s almost 100 per cent loss,” said Manjeet of the 60 acres along Highway 97.

“There isn’t anything (salvageable). I tried to find one apple and there isn’t any.”

The orchard was planted in 2009 and this was just the second year of production.

“We were preparing to produce a nice crop,” said Jaspal, adding that all of the necessary steps to ensure growth, such as thinning and disease control, had occurred earlier in the season.

They were just four weeks away from harvesting cherries.

Now, they have no marketable crop — but the work must continue.

“They need to keep the trees healthy for next year’s crop. You can’t let disease build up,” said Lynn Lashuk, an agrologist with Growers Supply.

“It’s heartbreaking. With a young block (of trees) it’s so exciting when the fruit comes along.”

All of the fruit will be removed so the trees can focus on repairing themselves.

Lashuk surveyed the damage Wednesday.

“One a scale of one to 10, they have a nine or 10,” she said of the devastation.

Jeet Dukhia, B.C. Fruit Growers Association president, has also visited the orchard.

“It’s the worst I have ever seen,” he said.

On top of lost revenue, government assistance will be minimal as trees must be into the fourth year of production for full coverage.

“We don’t have enough insurance,” said Manjeet, whose orchards in the BX also sustained some hail damage.

“The government should send a representative to see what we had and go by that (instead of how old the trees are).”

But while challenges remain, the Sandhers remain dedicated to farming.

“Even though we were hit hard, we will do what we have to so we have a good crop. We will never give up,” said Manjeet.