From the McBain cutter-rower via Mather & Platt mobile viners to the PMC 989, the technology of pea harvesting has been transformed over the past fifty years. In this DVD, harvesting enthusiasts Stephen Richmond and Jonathan Whitlam show developments in East Anglia over the period.
They use archive footage from Anglia TV’s ‘Farming Diary’ as well as stills and extensive new footage, particularly of the 2007, 2009 and 2011 harvests. East Anglia nearly lost its large-scale pea crop when Birdseye retreated to its Hull base after 2009. However, in 2011 Anglia Pea Growers have been harvesting again – and using the latest PMC 989s, the fourth generation of this viner.
The DVD also includes extensive interviews with people who have been involved with the crop. Graham Richmond’s experience goes back to the Second World War when his father was loaned German prisoners of war to harvest the crop by hand. He demonstrates how they used to drive off pigeons with a calcium carbide bird scarer and introduces footage of the cutter-rower and green-crop loader from the late 1950s.
1960s archive film shows MF 175 tractors pulling Mather & Platt mobile viners getting a crop to be sent to Lowestoft for freezing.
Farm manager John Want recalls late nights and early mornings in the 1960s when the harvest was done at the behest of the tenderometer, which meant two-shift, 24-hour work. He recalls the lovely smell of the peas in the night and how on light land they used to hang like grapes.
Paul Reeve used viners towed by County 1164s or a Muir-Hill 101. He recalls, too, the various arrangements that were made for getting the crop to Mortons, such as high-tipping trailers bolted to the floor of redundant coal lorries.
Stephanie Hatton gives an insight into her work as a tractor driver in the field, fetching from the viner to the truck.
FMC’s first self-propelled picker, the 679, appeared in the late 1970s. The major step forward came with the 979 6-wheel type harvester which was quieter than its predecessors, had electronic controls and gave the operator a better ride. Also shown in the programme are Ploeger 520 and 530 with their engines at the rear. They remained in service in Norfolk alongside the more numerous FMC, and later, PMC models.
Footage of recent harvests is evocative: ‘As night fell the field became a completely different world with just the lights of the machines breaking the inky blackness.’
The final sequence, from 2011, shows the latest high-tech PMC 989s at work.
- Running time approx 100 mins
- PAL DVD