Over the last few months you will have seen plenty of activity on the farm and around the Essex countryside, often late into the night when whilst the weather is fine and dry - it’s the time of year when farmers are out in their combines bringing in the harvest.
Harvesting is the act of removing a crop from where it is growing and moving it to a more protected and secure location for processing, consumption, or storage. Some root crops and tree fruit can be left in the field or orchard and harvested as needed, but most crops reach a period of maximum quality, or their most ripe or mature, and will deteriorate if left exposed to the elements any longer.
Harvest normally starts in July and goes on all the way through to September. But this grinds to a halt if above average rain falls over the summer.
There are lots factors that can hamper harvest and many of them, unfortunately, can’t be controlled. Because the crops are so exposed to the weather and the weather is becoming more volatile it can impact the condition of crops heavily if it’s too wet, or even too dry. If the crop is too wet, there can be outbreaks of pests or diseases in the plants which can spread throughout the crop very quickly. On the other hand if the crop is too dry, it can ripen too quickly or even just die.
Crops need to meet certain specifications to be able to go into the food supply chain to make things like flour that go into bread. If it’s of lesser quality, or not the right moisture content, it won't work properly for the baker or keep in store until its ready to be used (up to a year or more after it's harvested). If grain is not what buyers are looking for in terms of quality, the farm will get a lower price for the crop and instead it will be made into things like chicken feed. Growing lesser quality crops is sometimes a conscious choice for farmers who have animals on their farm that need feeding.
The summer months certainly have been a busy time for us and with the harvest almost done, we'll be moving on to ploughing and sowing for next years crops - there really is no rest for the wicked!