Touring the harvest fields, Patricia Ward of The Evening Standard (from which this story is reprinted) wrote in late August how farmers are rejoicing at the rich yield of Mother Earth: reward for our land-workers' toil, and aid to Britain's ultimate victory.
Throughout East Anglia three weeks ago the corn was standing high; today, all but a few of the fields are stubble and innumerable stacks bear testimony to a record harvest completed in record time. There is rejoicing among the farmers. Not only because the cereal crop was a "bumper" one and is threshing out even better than it looked. But as one of them put it to me: "An early harvest means a good start to the year; now we can get ahead with the ploughing and early sowing."
Already many of the fields have lost the last trace of gold, for the stubble has either been treated with cultivator or given a shallow ploughing to clear it of weeds. One of the reasons, the farmers reckon, that they are so well in advance of the year is that Norfolk is so highly mechanized. Much of the cutting has been done by combine-machines.
I watched one at work on one of the still uncut areas. It was a self-propelled machine, one of the latest types to arrive in the country. The farm worker who drove it said: "Wonderful job, isn't it? And it saves a lot of time and labour. Of course, when anything goes wrong, it's a job to get it fixed." Through the cute and into the row of sacks slung behind the driver's seat barley poured forth in a golden stream.
The man who was handling the sacks picked up a handful to show me. "I've farmed in Norfolk for a lifetime", he said, "and I've never seen better-looking grain." The extra labour which has enabled the farmers to gather this "extra" harvest has been, I learned, almost entirely unskilled, provided by holiday camps and part-time volunteers from town and village.
"Farming is in the blood of every man and woman and child in the county", explained one white-haired farmer. I asked him what, apart from the question of labour, the main farming difficulties had been throughout the season. "Transport", he said, "though the Services have helped us a lot over that. Shortage of spare parts for machinery. And rats – but the War Agricultural Committee are doing a good job there. This year 500,000 acres have been cleared of them."