Pea crop harvested

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Harvesting peas on the Maw family farm.

The Maw family, in Mid Canterbury, has been farming at Barrhill for four generations, dating back to 1925.

They rotate a broad range of crops including cereals, grass and clovers for grazing and seed production, vegetable seed crops and peas, which are currently being harvested for produce giant, Wattie’s.

Colin Maw has been supplying Wattie’s for over 20 years.

Wattie’s farmers have vast experience in growing the very best peas with knowledge handed down and nurtured between generations.

Wattie’s invited a team to visit the Maw’s at Barrhill during harvest to see how locally grown peas go from the field to the consumer’s fork.

Wattie’s South Island agricultural manager Greg Noller oversees the work of an experienced team of agronomists and harvester operators to ensure the 24/7 supply of peas to the factory.

He said Canterbury-wide Wattie’s farmers grow and harvest the largest area of peas in the southern hemisphere with the longest pea harvesting season in the world.

More than 38,000 tonnes of peas are harvested by Wattie’s in the Canterbury region each year citing Kiwi farmers as “simply the best at what they do”.

And just like other farmers Mr Maw cares deeply about his role as a custodian of the land and is thinking about future generations when he farms today.

He keeps a gap of about seven years between pea crops, which are just part of the broad rotation of crops.

Peas are just part of a broad rotation of crops including cereals, grass and clovers for grazing and seed production, and vegetable seed crops, thereby improving soil fertility and structure, minimising disease carryover and reducing agricultural chemical residues.

It means there is a good yield and ensures good care for the long-term health of the soil.

They are part of the legume family and an excellent crop for the planet. Peas help with nitrogen-fixing in the soil and generally don’t need fungicides.

“Keeping everything local ensures Wattie’s get the best peas to supermarket shoppers. Wattie’s peas can go from field to fork without delay because their factory is close to the farms.

“As soon as peas reach optimum tenderness, they are harvested, washed, blanched and quickly frozen to preserve their full flavour. To choose the best moment for harvest, the peas on each farm are carefully monitored with what’s called a ‘tenderometer’.

“Several peas are placed inside and squeezed to measure whether they are tender and ready to harvest. This is our guide to maturity of the pea. Once tenderness is gauged, there is a window of 24 hours to harvest.”

The harvest is a tightly co-ordinated event to take care of such a precious crop.

Check out the pea harvest video on The Ashburton Courier Facebook page.