BITTER HARVEST FOR MIDLAND GROWERS
It took just ten minutes to sell all the vegetables in Smithfield Market, Evesham, yesterday: ten minutes to auction the sparse collection of produce plucked with numbed fingers from the snow or hacked laboriously from the unyielding soil.
Meanwhile, the men with frozen fields and frozen incomes, and nothing for the market, anxiously watched the thaw spread across the Vale of Evesham.
For only when the hard-packed snow releases its grip on the market gardens and uncovers the remaining crops will the growers know the full, unhappy story of this hostile winter.
Some of it they know already: hundreds of acres of brussels sprouts have been killed by frost or eaten by wood pigeons; and only a small fraction of the thousands of tons in the ground at the beginning of the year has found its way to market.
Anxiety is now mostly centred on the spring cabbages which for weeks have been mercifully covered by snow, protecting them from the pigeons, though whether it will have been sufficient to keep out the frost is uncertain. At best spring cabbage will be a month late; at worst it will be ruined.
You seldom see the Goldstraw brothers of Badsey – Frank, George and Stanley – all in Evesham at the same time. But lately there has been nothing that even one of them could do on their 40 acres.
“We have not picked a sprout since the Sunday before Christmas,” Frank told me, “and we have four acres of spring cabbage that we haven’t seen this year. We’ve nothing coming in, and we have two men’s wages to pay.”
They estimate that they have lost 20 tons of sprouts.