Being a farmer in the Chilterns has its plusses - we live in an area surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, and we don't suffer the perils of flooding in the way that some of our industry allies do. However the minor altitude difference is evident at times throughout the season, and definitely at harvest.
Whilst many farmers may have begun harvesting their barley earlier in July, ours ripened more towards the middle of the month. The braver weather forecasters suggested the possibility of a heat wave, and with that the weather became fine and we started our cereal harvest for 2014, earlier than an average year.
The results have been satisfactory too. The UK record harvest for wheat is around 14.5t/ha (tonnes per hectare). Some of our yields have reached about 9t/ha which is similar to this year's UK average. However the figures do take into account farms that suffered severe flooding, and will have only yielded around 4 or maybe 5 t/ha, bringing the averages down somewhat.
Many people view harvest time as the end of the season, when the crops are coming in, and farmers can see the fruits of their labour as a tradable commodity. The reality though is that harvest is only the start of a very busy period to come. There is no time to waste in establishing the following crop, for the better a start you can give, and the stronger you can make a plant going into Autumn and Winter, the better it will be able to cope with the inevitable drop in temperatures and high rainfall. If there is straw on the field, it needs taking away. The ground needs cultivating, and operations are required to clear it of weeds, before going in and planting next season's crop.
Obviously drivers will know that farm traffic at this time of year increases substantially on our already pressured national road network. Believe me farmers want to be on the roads as little as members of the public want us there! This has been highlighted recently by the NFU (National Farmers Union) with a sticker campaign. As part of their successful 'Back British Farming' agenda, they are providing eye-catching stickers for farmers to put on the backs of their trailers saying “Thank you for backing British farming as we deliver the nations’ food”.
Now, some say this is a great way of engaging with frustrated motorists, gently reminding them that it is an important task being carried out in front of them. Others say it is a ridiculous idea, and patronisingly assumes that all motorists do back British Farming, and want to be thanked for their support in being patient whilst we trundle along back to the farm/field. Either way, if you are stuck behind a Buckmoorend Farm tractor and trailer, and you are already running late, or generally lack patience on the road (let's face it, we ALL have those days), then please do accept our apologies. We do our utmost to avoid travelling at peak times, and if it could be avoided, we sincerely would.