Nadia Lim: Farming waits for no-one, not even Santa –

At this time of year a lot of us are looking forward to winding down and taking a bit of time off around Christmas and New Year.
Unfortunately, for anyone who grows food, that is not the case. Animals and plants don’t know it’s Christmas on December 25, and are quite happy to keep laying eggs, producing milk and growing.
Nothing stops growing or producing. In fact, things crank up. Peak daylight hours means peak egg production and peak growth. Our chickens’ lay rate has skyrocketed, the lambs are piling on the pounds, the bees are swarming, the sunflowers and cereal crops are heading up, and vegetables are growing before our eyes.
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Just last week, we had an “emergency” market garden situation where we had to hastily harvest more than 100 kilos of salad earlier than planned (before our wash and packhouse was ready).
We have learnt that in our climate, plant growth tends to be all or nothing. While winter is dormant, if we have a few sunny, warm days at this time of year the growth is out of this world.
Last week, we thought we had about a week before we needed to harvest our salad greens. They grow quickly anyway, but after a spell of sunshine and the right amount of rain, they went crazy.
If you have a home vegetable garden, you will know what this is like. It’s easy for things to go from “just about ready” to “going to seed” seemingly overnight. When you are growing at scale, and you want to supply the very best to your customers, the stakes are a lot higher.
For better or worse, there’s no controlling the rate at which things grow. We all pitched in, harvesting, washing, spinning, drying, packaging, and delivering the salad. If we had waited a few more days, it would have started going to seed, changing its taste and texture.
This means that come Christmas Day, nothing stops. So our awesome, and very deserving, farm staff can take a break, the plan is for Carlos and I to spend a chunk of the day collecting and grading a few thousand eggs.
Little do my mum, brother and sister (who are visiting at Christmas) know, but I will probably get them to lend a hand.
A word of advice to anyone considering getting into farming, growing and producing food – it is not the right career if you want a 40-hour working week and standard holidays.
When something needs to be done, it needs to happen then and there. You can’t put it off because you are tired, or it’s late, or because you’re busy doing something else.
Another example, a few days ago, was our bees swarming, which naturally happens at this time of year when there is a sudden population boom. When this occurs, you need to deal with it immediately. There’s no way you can say, “well, it doesn’t suit me to sort them out this afternoon, they will have to wait until tomorrow”. Nature doesn’t wait until something is convenient.
On the plus side, we never complain about being bored and there’s always something to keep you on your toes. Even when you are organised, and the weather is on your side, things don’t always go to plan. We have more than 2000 elder trees on the farm and, last summer, I was really keen for us to harvest as many elderberries as we could.
Four of us spent days picking more than 150kg of perfectly ripe berries that we froze to make into cordial. Everything went well, until we went away for a few days and the freezer defrosted.
All that said, we are so grateful to be able to live this life, even when it might be nice to be snoozing in a deck chair.
When you are celebrating with your friends and family this Christmas Day, make sure you raise a glass to all the growers and farmers who have helped put the food on your table. They deserve it.
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