News that the first load of potatoes has passed over the ‘Bridge’ bound for the UK shows that this year’s export season is getting underway as usual. What is different about this harvest is that the war is forcing more and more farmers to use technology instead of people when it comes to lifting their crop from the fields.
One of the major concerns since the start of the war has been how the Island’s agricultural industry would manage following the drastic reduction in available labour. Farmers first had to cope with the departure of French military reservists and the potential drying up of seasonal French labourers. Then they had to accommodate the Militia’s mobilisation, which reduced the availability of local labour. More recently, the campaign to raise recruits for Kitchener’s armies have continued the manpower drain.
Anticipating labour shortages, a number of farmers turned to mechanical digging machines, which have appeared in a number of innovative designs. At first, these were viewed with suspicion, with fears they could not possibly work. As this year’s harvest gets underway, however, it is understood that many farmers have taken to the mechanical diggers and pronounced them a success.