Friday, 22 September 2017

Harvest - a celebration

Our church, Bishop Hannington in Hove, is celebrating harvest this Sunday.  This gives us the chance to talk about the farming year to everyone and we have been given these questions to chat about:

What does harvest mean to us?
We see harvest happening almost all year round for us.  Traditionally harvest celebration happens in September and October as this coincides with the arable crops being cut and stored ready to be sold to be made into bread, pasta, beer, porridge and so on.  For us, our busy harvest times are lambing and calving.  Lambing takes place at the end of March each year and well into April and calving begins a little before that in February and runs into March.  It is an intense time for us but an amazing one as we welcome so much new life onto the farm and witness the first few breaths and the first few shaky steps as the calf and lamb totter on their feet to satisfy that incredible instinct to find their mothers teat and feed.  Harvest continues for us in June and July when we think about food for the winter months, in the form of silage and haylage.  These are both made from grass which we mow first of all and then bale and then wrap with black plastic (this gets recycled later) which then ferments the grass.  We then stack the bales safely in the farmyard and gradually use them through the winter to feed the cows and sheep. We are not the only farmers who do not have a combine visit the farm in July or August each year to harvest the crops (much to Freddie's disappointment...) but we enjoy and share where we can when we see our neighbours hard at work during the summer combining and taking the grain back to farm to carefully store it to then sell for our food or sometimes for animal feed too. Harvest definitely feels like an end of a cycle from when  the crops were planted either in the previous autumn or spring and then looked after by the farmers through all weather conditions until they are ready to be combined.  The fields are then cultivated and the process starts all over again!  Harvest is an important time whatever the time of year for farmers and we need to be incredibly thankful for what we are able to produce.

Roly is on the tractor raking up the mown grass ready for it to baled and wrapped for winter feed for the sheep and cows.

Roly and Freddie in our spring barley crop which is again mowed, baled and wrapped for the cows to eat during winter.
Why is there a general disconnection felt to food, farming and the countryside?  
Very gradually over the years shopping for food has become a very remote experience from where the food was in fact actually grown.  Food shopping has become so convenient that we can even have it delivered to us without actually needing to leave our homes at all!  This does have major advantages in our busy lives but it does make it very removed from its actual source and it has often travelled a very long distance.  Along this disconnected line lots happens and by the time it reaches our plate we often have no idea where it is from and who has taken the care to grow it or produce it for us.  This has put a responsibility on farmers to be more open and where possible invite neighbours, schools and local communities to visit them and build up the understanding again of how food is produced and the care that is taken to look after all of our countryside and how we manage it responsibly.  We therefore try to share what we do here at Saddlescombe and make our meat sales as accessible as possible and create an understanding of respect for the meat our customers buy and the care we take of our animals.

What can communities do to support farmers and celebrate harvest?
Due to the fantastic and diverse countryside of this country there will be no one way to support.  Every farm, village and community is different but there are ways to find out about your local farm and if they can supply meat to fill up your freezer.  Websites such as can be helpful as a starting point.  Look out for open days which are advertised and Open Farm Sunday which happens each year in June is a brilliant way to make contact and actually visit the farm and meet the farmers.  
Communities can also support farmers in other ways through contact.  We have wonderful regular walkers here on the south downs who are so helpful in letting us know if a gate has been left open or if there is a sheep or one of the cows they are concerned about.
Getting together to celebrate harvest is a wonderful way to thank farmers and praise God for his goodness.

More soon

Camilla, Roly, Molly, Freddie, Belle, Fly and Finch

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