Bob Mastin, a seed grower from Sundre, Alta., may be thanking a broken luggage carousel in Germany and a saint from Argentina for help in harvesting a decent oat seed crop this fall. It sounds a bit far fetched, but here is how this true story unfolds.
Part 1: Mastin, who has been a seed producer since 1978, heads to Germany in January to speak at a conservation agricultural conference called Green Week. It was a hellish flight that ended with him waiting in the baggage area at a German airport until the luggage carousel was fixed. He struck up a conversation with an attractive woman who was also waiting and whom he thought might also be attending the conference. She didn’t speak English, but Bob spoke a bit of Spanish, so he learned this woman was a apparently a saint from Argentina who was on her way to Germany to do a few blessings and work a few miracles. They chatted for a while, Bob gave her his business card, the luggage arrived, they went their separate ways. End of Part 1.
Part 2: This spring Bob secured a few bushels of AC Juniper oats (not a new variety, but a really great oat that somehow got lost in the shuffle over the years — that story for another day) and he seeded a field of the variety for seed. The cool growing season managed to produce a decent crop, but wouldn’t you know it, the only field on Mastin’s farm pummeled by an early August hail storm was this 85 acres of AC Juniper oat. It appeared to be about an 85 per cent loss.
He let it go. The surviving plants stooled out and with decent growing weather through August and early September, he ended up with two crops in one. The original plants matured and set seed, and the stools also went on to produce a good amount of seed, although it was immature. Mastin figured he might be able to harvest a reasonable crop, if the frost held off for a few weeks. End of Part 2
Part 3: Mastin never expected to hear from the attractive woman from Argentina again, so he was surprised to receive a social “how are things going” email from her in late summer. He emails her back with a short comment on the frustrations of farming in western Alberta. She sends a note back asking Bob what he needs. He replies saying he needs frost-free conditions until the end of September. She writes back with assurance that his crop will be frost free until October.
Part 4: By late September, Mastin knows the original oat plants are quite mature and the stooled plants are close enough to maturity for swathing. On the first day of fall, Environment Canada calls for a heavy frost. Mastin wants to get the oats cut before the frost hits. He goes to the field to swath the crop, the knife on the swather breaks, he is down for repairs. He doesn’t get the field swathed, but there is no killing frost that night as forecast.
The next day, daytime temperatures soar to about 30C with no immediate frost in sight. “It looks like I will get the oats cut without frost and hopefully have a decent batch of seed,” Mastin says. “I’m not sure about miracles, but I’m sure glad I was on my best behaviour with that attractive woman from Argentina. I may have to ask her for a few more blessings next year.” End of Part 4.
For more information on Mastin Seeds and verification of this story, contact Bob Mastin at www.mastinseeds.comor call 403-556-2609.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]