By Camille Aubin

A surprise hailstorm recently hit part of the Columbia Valley, at the tail end of a week of extreme 40-degree plus heat. The precipitation started out as heavy rain, then soon morphed into impressively large hailstones, which proceeded to hammer down for quite a long time: 20 minutes or more. Many of those who saw the storm still haven’t stopped talking about it.

A few hours before the hail came down, the temperature was so hot that the only sensible place to be was in the lake. That changed in a matter of seconds, with little warning. The hail was of such magnitude that sheets of ice formed in several places, and considerable swathes of ground were blanketed with what appeared to be snow (but which in actual fact was agglomerated hailstones).

As a result, storm sewers clogged, streets were flooded, and the scene across town was one of post-storm-disaster. On the following day, town maintenance staff were busy ridding the town of the remnants of this extraordinary climatic event. But they weren’t the only ones to contemplate the damage left behind by the storm.

Gardeners and those who make vegetables their livelihoods watched with despair as their efforts thus far this season were quite literally torn to pieces: broken tomatoes plants, shredded lettuce, kale and spinach leaves lying battered on the ground, and gardens marked by the sudden absence of leafy green life.

The hailstorm may have spared a few ground vegetables such as carrots and beets but not  much more. With a bit of luck and effort, other vegetables will grow back into beautiful colors and sprout a few healthy leaves within a few weeks, if the weather is favourable. However, the majority of many gardens and indeed quite a few farmers’ crops have taken a big hit.

It’s a timely reminder about the importance of encouraging local food production. With so much of the valley’s produce lost in the hailstorm, prices of locally grown food are likely to rise in grocery stores, markets, and the restaurants that make it a point to use local ingredients in their menus.

But we shouldn’t let this keep us from buying local: our producers are worth more than a few extra dollars. Let’s help them for the following week and for the rest of the summer, and hopefully make all their countless hours spent in their gardens worth the effort.