The hum of harvest isn’t something that pleases everyone but, for me, the sound of harvest filling the air really does bring me great happiness.
I haven’t ever really sat down to think why – maybe it’s because the beautiful drone of the harvesters and the rumble of the tractors scurrying across the fields signifies productivity and long-held traditions. Maybe it’s because it’s celebratory – all the previous year’s work is (hopefully) proving fruitful. Maybe it’s because these sounds tell us that we’ll be good for beer, bread, vegetables and sugar for the coming year.
The hum at night as I drift off to sleep feels meditative and calming…
In Norfolk agriculture is in our blood – it’s the all important provider of jobs, of food and a fluctuating sense of stability. For centuries agriculture has been the county’s key industry because our climate, landscape and soil are perfect for arable farming.
Topping the list of crops is wheat and barley followed closely by potatoes and sugar beet.
Thinking about harvest got me thinking more intensely about agriculture here in Norfolk and I decided I need to up my understanding of the scale of it – this is what I found out:
- In East Anglia a whopping three-quarters of the land is used for agriculture
- The region is known as Britain’s breadbasket – growing enough wheat to produce 5,774 million loaves of bread
- The East is also a major producer of everything from peas and beans to apples, strawberries, salad crops, flowers and shrubs
- Farmers in East Anglia harvest more than two thirds of England’s sugar beet crop and one third of its potato crop
- The region’s dairy cows produce 288 million litres of milk
- The country’s pig and poultry farms are largely centred on East Anglia
- In the East, laying hens produce about 2.2 million eggs each day
- East Anglia has the second largest number of pigs in England, about 1 million animals
- The region’s agricultural sector directly employs more than 39,000. It also supports many other jobs in areas such as engineering, feed manufacture, transport, the veterinary profession and agricultural research and development.
As I write, most of this year’s rape seed fields have been knocked down, in most cases overnight – every year I forget how much dust the rape seed harvest produces, a fine smog fills the air as the harvester demolishes the crop in no time at all.
The barley has just about gone and work has begun on the wheat fields.
It’s a wonderful time of year, I always think the air is filled with optimism as the countryside provides a harvest – it’s probably very different if you’re directly involved in harvesting – the stresses and strains of hitting targets and yields, together with exceedingly long days, must take its toll.
But thank you to you all, to everyone who is helping bring home this year’s harvest.