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All is safely gathered in

harvestIf we are honest we all love to look over the neighbour’s fence. Farmers are no different in keeping an eye on what the neighbours are up to. The best inspiration to start harvest is to see your neighbour trundling out with the combine. The worst fear for most farmers is that their agricultural slip-ups happen in the most visible fields next to the main road. A beautiful show of poppies in a wheat field visible for miles around may be a delight for many, but is probably a source of embarrassment for the farmer. Our grandfather was renowned for crawling round the countryside at a snail’s pace in his Austin 1100 while he inspected the neighbours’ crops and livestock and for immediately putting his foot down on entering the village, impatient with anyone observing the speed limit ahead of him. I remember being in the car when he overtook someone on the bend by the industrial estate just next to the Wychwood School.

This harvest, looking over the fence has been hard for some, because the weather has been so variable. While a heavy shower has stopped your combine, a mile or two over the hill they might still be cracking on in the sunshine. In the end, as someone on the farm said,
“For a difficult harvest it has actually turned out quite easy.”

Despite the stop-start nature of the combining due to the wet weather, we actually finished the harvest earlier than normal. After a very dry and hot June, the crops all ripened early and we did not have any gaps in the middle of harvest while we were waiting for crops to ripen and so in the few dry spells we were able to ‘crack on’.

Harvest started in mid-July with a fair crop of winter barley followed immediately by a good crop of oil seed rape. The wheat also yielded well for the most part and, despite the rain, the quality of the milling wheat looks good. The spring barley was the one disappointing crop, which was not unexpected. Then the glorious weather over August bank holiday enabled us to get to grips with the beans and we finished on a gloomy Tuesday the day after the Bank Holiday, with the combine sieves nearly gummed up by damp bean residue.

Many of you may have enjoyed that lovely weather at the Big Feastival. Alex James was writing about farming in the Times. On the Quiche/Real Farmer spectrum he definitely sits comfortably at the quiche end. I am sure he is enough of a farmer to be looking over the fence. If he looks our way I hope he sees the need for the staple food producer alongside the ‘artisan’ higher end producer.

Mike Hartley

October – November 2017