Tales of a Farmer - Oil Seed Rape Harvest 2013


Have you spared a thought recently when driving home late you spy the lights of a combine or drill casting an arch through the night sky, the low hum of the machines like white noise? Living next to fields often planted with oil seed rape, Luke and I were staggered to realise the length of the day for the farmers through harvest. Intrigued, and in an attempt to understand more I asked Oscar Harding from Duchess oil in Sawbridgeworth about the oil seed rape harvest this year and how it compared to last year. What he told me was illuminating and I will certainly not complain about that foot of snow in the New Year again!


Harvest 2013 was as always (excluding 2012) great fun and this is mainly down to the weather. When the weather is good you can start earlier in the morning and finish later at night. Long hard days are always good in the long run although once you hit the 18th hour you start thinking other wise. We managed to hit all of the ideal drilling dates… this was made possible by getting the fields cut and cultivated on time. Timings are so key to us, the knock on effects are huge even if you’re just a week behind. If the crop isn’t cut on time next year’s crop then isn’t in the ground on time resulting in a slightly later crop next year and so the cycle continues. It’s a real fight to get things back on track once dates start slipping (as they did in 2012). We had a few disasters with machines and infrastructure but nothing and angel grinder and a bit of WD40 couldn’t sort out (the harvest rule is ‘if its moving and shouldn’t, zip tie it and if it’s not moving and should WD40 it’). When you’re in the thick of it the number one priority is to keep the combing cutting and the drill planting and you just do whatever it takes to make that happen. The physical side of harvest couldn’t have been better for us this year however yield wasn’t amazing but it was a lot better than we thought it would be back in early 2013 when if it wasn’t raining it was freezing and nothing seemed to be growing. On the whole it was a great harvest.

How did it compare to 2012…

I can barely bring myself to discus 2012. 2012 was a year I’d love to forget but never will. The rainfall was unbelievable and the crops suffered for it as did the equipment: combines sunk, tractors sunk, land rovers sunk. It really was the hardest I’ve ever worked. I had a 26hr day in one tractor on the frost trying to plant wheat only stopping to re fuel. It felt like going to war every day and it went on for so long.

Perfect weather from now, would be a nice mix between a bit of rain and sun leading up to the new year than a foot of snow to sit on the crops (like a blanket) while the frost and freezing conditions come.’

Oscar’s delicious Duchess oil graces our tables in the Lemon Tree Restaurant and is available for sale from us as well as numerous other outlets in Bishop’s Stortford. The oil has a fine nutty taste and has a higher burning point than olive oil making it superb for both dressings and cooking. Luke uses it in the kitchen and always recommends it to his Cooking Club.

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