Despite pouring with rain, it’s definitely uplifting being out and about on our Sussex farms in fresh, clean air. And you can’t be bored when you are with people who clearly care deeply about what they do.
Nicki, from The Potato Shop on the Morghew Park Estate, really is the Queen of all Things Potato and has infectious enthusiasm for the spuds she grows.
Because of the rain, she was away from her computer and out with the pickers, lifting potatoes by hand – which is an arduous and back breaking job. But she took a break to take us on a slithery ride around the fields and then look at the new potato harvests chilling in the stores. Usually the potato pickers have a large tractor to cut a swathe through the fields but when the weather is really wet and soggy, it’s back to basics and all picking is done the old-fashioned way.
Harvesting is a fortnight in September of working against the unpredictable Sussex weather to lift out hundreds of tonnes of potatoes. Nicki oversees the process of the potatoes being checked by hand to remove any with blight or ones that have been eaten through by worms. So we can confidently deliver sacks of bright and clear potatoes to our customers.
The potatoes all go through a sorter which is a small jiggling conveyor belt where they can be divided by size – so we don’t mix up the new potatoes with your bakers. Once sorted, they are packed in their sacks and left to relax in a huge chilling room.
Refreshingly, all this is overseen by human beings having a crack while they work and with the farm dog, Hazel, dipping in and out welcoming us visitors with her muddy paws.