Last Saturday lunch time the Combine Harvester arrived in the village in order to cut the wheat on the 26 acre Town Field. By eight o’clock that evening, not only had the crop had been fully harvested but the straw had been completely baled. All done in roughly 6 hours. By my calculation the wheat crop would produce enough flour on that one field to produce 210,000 large loaves of bread. Incidentally, a quantity which would only be sufficient for 4 minutes worth of the national demand for bread (roughly 12 million loaves per day).
This made me think. At the outbreak if the First World War, crop yields were less than a quarter of those which are attained now. In fact, the yield was probably only enough to provide for 53,000 large loaves. It would have taken nearly three days to harvest the wheat on that same field, and then only if they had the benefit of a modern reaper/binder. Before such machinery was available, three experienced farm workers, along with their families to help gather the sheaves and “shock” the crop would take nearly three weeks to cut the wheat. In all likelihood more than three worker’s families from the village would be involved. No wonder harvest was such an important event. An event which now is limited to a Saturday afternoon. A sad comparison in so many ways, but at least we have enough to eat.