An image of the destroyed corn crop at Molnar Taber Corn and Pumpkins.

An image of the destroyed corn crop at Molnar Taber Corn and Pumpkins.
What would have been a bumper Taber corn harvest has been reduced to mush by a vicious hailstorm.

Jenn Molnar and other family members took shelter in the basement of their home when the nine-minute onslaught descended on their farm at Barnwell east of Lethbridge on Tuesday night.

They emerged to a scene of total devastation that will mean a near-total loss for them and frustration for corn-lovers who crave their sweet cobs every August and September.

"We were completely wiped out," said Molnar.

"The Taber corn crops are gone, there's nothing left for this year."

In three days of harvesting before the storm, whipped by winds gusting up to 140 km/h, Molnar Taber Corn and Pumpkins managed to pack up 80 sacks of corn, said the woman.

The rest of the corn, which would have been harvested over the next two months, was damaged beyond salvage, she said.

"The hail bruised the corn, so when you open it up it's pure mash on one side of it," said Molnar.

"I've never seen anything like it . . . it's next-year country now."

Also lost to the hail was 450,000 kilograms of pumpkins and other produce, she added.

The storm wreaked similar havoc at the nearby, much-larger Johnson Fresh Farms, while a number of buildings in the area were also damaged.

"It was loonie- and toonie-sized hail, we saw a lot of the crop disappear before our eyes," said an emotional James Johnson

"It's gut-wrenching, it's one of those things that makes a grown man cry."

The storm destroyed or severely damaged 90 per cent of his farm's 200 hectares of sweet corn crop that stood two metres tall, and 70 per cent of its potato fields, he said.

What those corn fields did yield — several hundred sacks — will make it up to Calgary and Edmonton in the coming days, said Johnson.

"We want to express our appreciation to all our customers who have reached out — it very well could be the last hurrah for our very short Taber corn season this year," he said.

The farm's operators will explore ways to salvage and process the intact portions of the cobs, he said, with rendering them as feed being a last resort.

Johnson said many other vegetable producers in the area were hit just as hard.

"We get the most attention because of what we grow but there's a lot of really good farms in this area that really got devastated," he said.

Molnar said insurance coverage for their lost crops was minimal, while Johnson said their corn wasn't insured at all.

"It's going to sting and leave a mark and a substantial financial loss," said Johnson.