The local JA was out here over winter pumping up interest in commercial tomato farming.
Seems they have a big contract with one of the national tomato juice companies and need more farmers to ensure the quotas are met.
Tomato farming is a shorter period of work than the year long slog that is apple farming- sow in May and harvest in August. The price is not determined by the market but rather set by JA so it's a guaranteed income.
My friend and neighbour A has the land and thanks to the crap economy she has the time and could do with the money so she signed on the dotted line.
Last week she spent an entire day (an entire farmer day- 5:00am- 6:00pm) tilling, laying down plastic 'mulch' and then covering the edges with soil to keep it grounded.
The very next day we had strong winds and a good half of the rows of mulch lifted partially. Two lifted entirely. So she and her husband spent another half day re-grounding the rows of mulch.
Two days ago they planted the tomato seedlings. About 800 of them. A's husband went out in the morning and had planted about 300 seedlings before A went and joined him. Being a man of a certain age he had ignored all planting advice given to him by his wife- his wife with the amazing garden- and had been de-potting the seedlings by yanking them out by the stalks.
So yesterday when they woke up to a mass outbreak of the tomato flopsies they re-planted 300 seedlings.
Today one of the local tomato experts (second generation tomato farmer) came to check out the newbie's fields and pointed out that the mulch holes weren't big enough and the wind had slightly shifted the mulch which was now completely covering some of the seedlings.
So this afternoon I went out and helped A cut 30cm diameter holes around each plant. We did about 250 of them.
Crouch, pierce, cut, lift, remove, stuff plastic scrap in bag, slide left, start again repeat times 250. When I finally stood up at the end I was stiff and shoulder sore and aching all over.
Poor A. And this is just the start. They still have to water them until they're established, spray them a total of 13 times and finally harvest their quota (hopefully more) in the dog days of Summer.
No easy money in tomatoes it seems.