While there have been a few dropouts, the resolve of the local workforce has held strong. What I’ve found is that while the work is monotonous and physically demanding, the sense of solidarity and camaraderie is a huge boost and real motivator. Ben, who works all year round, says that this is especially crucial in the winter, where they all depend on each other to keep spirits up in the wet and cold.
Tough as it is now, I am under no illusion; this is a walk in the park compared to the harsh winter months. (I clearly tempted fate here, because not even two days after I wrote this, we had a huge downpour of rain that gave us a small insight into the reality of year-round picking).
Every morning we receive the order numbers, and instead of working through the crop completely, we only pick what corresponds to the daily requirements of the boxes to ensure peak freshness. John Richards, the farm manager, explained to me that the Devon farm is uniquely placed, right next to the box packing barn, to grow varieties that need to be as fresh as possible. For example, all our salad leaves come from the Devon farm year round, and can be picked in the morning, packed into the boxes the same day, then delivered to customers not even 24 hours later.
For us, the pickers, this means that we might be picking four different crops on a given day, and this diversity really helps keep up your concentration. Having said that, there are days that you spend the entire day on one crop. To start with, I found it extremely draining doing the same repetitive action. But after the first few weeks, I found my groove, and discovered that talking nonsense with my colleagues was the key to quicker days.
Personally, picking has been a really gratifying experience so far. Not only do I spend all day outside in the rolling hills of Devon with a fascinating bunch of people, I’m also learning first-hand about the very foundations of the business: the veg farming.
There’s no substitute for that, and I’m so excited to share these stories of the farm with our loyal and potential new customers when we get back to the streets in September.