Farming column with Sam Walton

Combines are now rolling across the East Riding region.
Combines are now rolling across the East Riding region.

It is that time of year again when the combines start to roll and we supposedly reap the rewards of our labours.

If winter barley is anything to go by, there will not be any reward.

The winter barley yield and bushel weights are down this year.

The winter barley yield and bushel weights are down this year.

I have yet to hear of any normal yield and bushel weights are down too.

Couple that with the price and we might as well have gone to the seaside for the year!

However these things happen occasionally and we knuckle down and start all over again. It will be another two weeks before we do the wheat and my guess is that the yields for that will also not match those of last year.

However as I write, the price is about £10 per ton more than last year which will help to reduce what I expect to be a deficit again.

Pea viners work 24 works a day to make sure the product is perfect for customers.

Pea viners work 24 works a day to make sure the product is perfect for customers.

Those of you not engaged in agriculture might sometimes get annoyed when you follow a combine, or tractors and trailers too at this time of year.

I would beg your indulgence, after all they are dealing with food ingredients essential to your welfare and the season does not last too long.

It would be quite easy at this time of year to mistake a pea vining machine for a combine and in actual fact, they are a sort of combine but only for fresh peas which around here are for Birds Eye.

Growing vining peas is another skilled job, precise to the minute.

The field officers for Birds Eye work out a programme which stretches over about three months for the drilling of early, medium and late maturing varieties.

They know to a day when they will be ready for harvesting and can plan a harvesting programme to ensure that the peas are at their most succulent and from going through the viner, they have to be frozen within 90 minutes to maintain top quality. That means the viners work 24 hours a day and if you are out late at night you may well see small tipper lorries still to and fro-ing with their precious cargo.

It is essential that as much as the crop as possible is harvested in the optimal condition and if for any reason something happens to delay the process, then the peas are left to be harvested dry later and will either be used as seed next time or go for animal feed.

Rest assured the frozen peas you buy are the tops.

Before I came here to farm on my own, I was managing a farming enterprise near Beverley and that was my first experience of vining peas.

The first year I drilled them on the correct day and it never stopped raining so the land was to wet to vine them. The next year it hardly rained at all and it was a very poor crop.

The third year I had the best crop of peas you could wish for but something went wrong in the vining programme so they were passed over.

The fourth year the peas got foot rot and were again passed and then I came here and suffice to say, they did not become part of my cropping rotation!