Winter is the quietest period in the pea year with much of the time being taken planning the next harvest - volumes of products are agreed on and complex Harvesting and Drilling plans are drawn up. These plans consider many factors such as, soil type, aspect, altitude, latitude and the relative maturity of the different varieties. These factors produce a ‘staggered’ Drilling Programme to achieve a progressive ripening sequence required to supply an even flow of fresh peas to the freezing factory 24 hours per day for 48 days – this is no mean feat. From these plans the total volumes of seed are calculated and deliveries arranged for the required amount of seed to be despatched to the individual members’ farms.
Whilst the winter period is quiet in the growing cycle, it is the busy time in the workshop where the machines are thoroughly overhauled ready for the forthcoming season. Each machine is stripped down and virtually re-built, with any worn or damaged items replaced to ensure maximum reliability with minimal breakdowns during the hectic 24/7 harvesting period. Each machine takes around 5 weeks to complete so with five in the fleet this can take in excess of five months.
Drilling begins in March when the weather allows and continues until June to get the desired spread at harvest, with each sowing being staggered to allow for land and maturity differences according to the drilling plan. Each member grower drills their own peas on their own land- after all they know their land best! Peas have a short growing period, with some crops only being in the ground for 70 days between sowing and harvest. This means that spring is a busy time for crop walking and protecting crops from pests and diseases as they grow away under the Yorkshire sun.
As harvest approaches, each field is sampled and the peas are put through our tenderometer machine to test them for tenderness. This guides us as to when to harvest each field at optimum quality. Harvest usually begins at the end of June/beginning of July and continues until mid-late August, depending on the season.
The peas are harvested using Ploeger pea harvesters, which strip the pods from the vines and pods the peas before returning the waste to the field. The peas are tipped from each harvester into a high-lift trailer which then transfers the peas to an awaiting lorry which whisks them off to the factory for freezing. This efficient operation relies on 18 in-field harvest staff working in 2 shifts to keep the factory fed with a constant flow of peas 24 hours a day.
Once we’ve finished our pea harvest, we move straight on to harvesting our broad beans. As they’re taller than peas we change the headers on the front of our harvesters to a specialised bean cutting header to make harvesting easier.
At the end of our harvesting campaign all our machines get a thorough clean off and head back to the workshop ready to start the overhaul for the next season!