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Abbotsford couple hope flood-relief funding covers farmers’ losses

Mark and Heidi Schurmann operate dairy farm on Sumas Prairie

Abbotsford dairy farmers Mark and Heidi Schurmann say they feel fortunate that their property survived the catastrophic flooding that hit Sumas Prairie almost two weeks ago.

But they worry about their fellow farmers and whether there will be enough government support to help them rebuild.

“Most of the farms don’t fall into the requirements or qualifications that they have set up. So hopefully they’ll look at that a little bit better and say that all these restrictions or requirements are not reasonable,” Heidi said.

For now though, the couple is focused on the clean-up of their dairy operation on Wells Line Road, an area of Sumas Prairie north of Vye Road that is under an evacuation order.

The property is bordered by Saar Creek, which meets with the Sumas River.

The farm has been in Mark’s family for three generations since the late 1960s. He was nine years old when the previous flood hit the area in 1990, but that was not nearly as bad as the current one, he said.

“The Nooksack River came over (in 1990) but the dike that breached this time didn’t breach then. I’m hearing there was three feet more of water this time than last time,” Mark said.

The couple said they never imagined a catastrophe of this magnitude.

RELATED: 500 cattle died in flooding in Abbotsford and Yarrow, says BC Dairy

When the heavy rain hit on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 14, large puddles began forming on the farm, but they said it was nothing unusual for a downpour.

By early morning, Saar Creek was starting to back up and, by 5:30 a.m., their driveway was submerged.

The Schurmanns have about 60 head of young heifers on a property across the street, and the barn there was taking on too much water – to the point where it was up to the headlights of their truck.

They decided to move the animals to another barn that was on higher ground.

“The water went from just trickling into the manure pit to filling the entire pit and being two inches deep. So when we were moving them their hooves were just covered in water,” Heidi said.

But the real panic started on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 16, when Mayor Henry Braun announced that the Barrowtown Pump Station looked like it might fail and all farmers remaining on Sumas Prairie needed to evacuate.

“That was the worst because we had an employee staying with us; she was freaking out. My wife was nervous. Everybody was nervous,” Mark said.

The Schurmanns couldn’t get out at that point, and they called 911 for the evacuation of their three kids – aged 7, 9 and 11. The kids were taken out Wednesday morning, but Mark and Heidi decided to stay. At that point, the failure of the pump station had not transpired, and the waters on their property were receding.

RELATED: Abbotsford mayor says he believes Nooksack River issues ‘will get fixed’

The herd on their property – about 300 – were able to remain, and the couple continued to run their dairy operation every day. They have since moved the 60 young cattle to a property in Glen Valley.

The flooding destroyed a mobile home on their property, and they have some ongoing barn cleanup to do.

But couple said they are heartened to see the support of the farming community – and others – in supporting one another and helping each other where needed.

“When the city cut off our water, the city didn’t drive around with water trucks making sure our cows had water. That was all industry-related people … driving around with tanks of water, making sure we all had water,” Heidi said.

Now, they are just hoping that the city has prepared well for the next “atmospheric river” systems that are moving in, and that the worst of the flooding is behind.

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Mark and Heidi Schurmann operate a dairy farm on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford. They are under an evacuation order but have decided to stay put. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)
Fields were still partially flooded Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021 on the dairy farm operated by Mark and Heidi Schurmann of Abbotsford. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)
Heidi Schurmann checks on the herd on her and her husband Mark’s dairy farm on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)
The herd on the dairy farm owned by Heidi and Mark Schurmann survived the flooding on Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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