By the time this is being read, we should have finished potato lifting for the year, writes Richard Barlow.
This is always a relief, as it is a race against the weather. This year we won and will have finished on October 20. Some years it can drag on into the middle of November.
First indications are that nationally average yields may be 10 per cent down, and with a shortage of potatoes on the continent, it looks like this may become a year when farmers get a reasonable return for the risk they take in growing potatoes.
Again we have had an excellent team effort, working non-stop for nearly four weeks, doing 80-hour weeks. Dropping back to more sociable hours will be welcomed by all!
Our grading labour have for the last ten years come from Poland. They all arrive 15 minutes before their start time to get ready for work and have a natter. Many can speak some English and a few very well. Speaking to them they say they are getting much more verbal abuse in the street since the Brexit vote. As it is the end of the farming season, many are going back to Poland and are not sure they will come back. The fall in the £/€ rate means they are taking less money back to Poland.
I can see problems ahead. The amount of available manual labour we need may become difficult to source, leading to the risk of crops being left in fields. One thing is sure; those giving the abuse won’t come and do the work. It won’t be the pay, but the fact that they refuse to commit themselves to be always available when needed.
The blame for this lies squarely with politicians who have told all the youngsters that they must go to university to get on in life. However, there is a whole section of society who, through no fault of their own, are not academically minded. They need to be taught that there is nothing wrong with manual work, and that with commitment they can earn a good living and respect. To get this change in mindset will take generations to achieve, not overnight.