Northern B.C.’s Bulkley-Nechako region is well-known for producing much of Western Canada’s very best quality hay. The roughly 350-square-kilometre region, from Vanderhoof in the southeast to Germansen Landing in the north to Smithers in the west, boasts summertime daylight that stretches 17 hours. The area surrounding Vanderhoof offers the very best arable agricultural land: an ancient glacial lake-bed with rock free, silty clay loam up to 600 feet deep.
Historically, the region has also provided ideal growing conditions for high-protein, high-sugar forages: heavy snowfall in winter provides great spring moisture, and the reliably warm, sunny summer days were always perfect for both growing and harvesting hay.
In the last 15 years, however, the weather has changed drastically. In the eastern part of the Nechako Valley, it’s now significantly wetter than ever before while in Ray’s southwestern part of the valley, it’s now incredibly dry. There have been more than a few years recently as well when the ground freezes long before the snow flies. Without an insulating layer of snow, the barren ground freezes deep and hard, so that when spring finally comes, melting snow runs off the deep frozen ground rather than percolating in. Streams are often full to bursting, while forage fields go into the growing season dry as dust. And it gets worse. Both spring and summer tend to be cooler now than historical norms, and precipitation seems to wait to fall until the worst possible time; right in the middle of haying season.