This time of year is always eagerly anticipated by all at Doves Farm. You will find us repeatedly checking the forecast, hoping for a well-timed dry spell, you’ll see our farmer inspecting the grains for indications of their moisture levels, and our faithful combine harvester out being serviced. It is of course, harvest time – the biggest day in the calendar for farmers across the country. Harvest has begun on our farm, and as we gather our 200 acres of crops, we will see the results of months of hard work.
This work begins in the Autumn, when we plant our Spelt, Rye, Einkorn, Emmer and modern wheat crops in October-November time, ready to harvest in August, taking around nine to ten months for the crops of each of our ancient grains to be full ready for harvest. Planting at that time of year is essential to a good harvest because the soil conditions have to be right. As we reach the warmer months, the crops are nurtured by warmer soil, warmer air, wind and rain, enabling them to grow.
When August comes around, we are on the lookout for the perfect time to harvest, to ensure that the crop is gathered when it is in the very best condition. First and foremost, we like to harvest the grains in the dry, so that they are dried naturally, and a heavy period of rain can delay a harvest. We can also tell from how the grain looks – the ears of the grain begin to swell and enlarge, but the key to telling when our grains are ready to harvest is all in the moisture levels. Traditionally farmers would know by a ‘bite test’: if the grain is hard to bite then it’s ready to harvest, but more often today farmers use moisture metres to gauge the moisture levels of the grain.
Once the grain has been cut, we take it off to be cleaned by a machine that sieves out any unwanted material such as stones and straw. When the grain has been cleaned, we then let it settle for 3-4 weeks before we begin milling it into our range of flours. And come October, we begin the process of planting our crops again, excitedly waiting for the coming year’s harvest.