'The farms are run on a field basis, not on a clock basis'
My week: Pat Smyth
Harvesting is underway in the broccoli fields of Co Kildare and farm manager Pat Smyth and his team know they will be flat out in the fields from now until November.
Pat supervises all aspects of the work at the Paul Brophy Produce broccoli enterprise that stretches across 700ac of mainly rented land in the Lilywhite county from Naas to Kilcullen and over to Athy.
The work detail covers everything from plant propagation to harvesting and takes in agronomy, soil condition testing and nutrition, machinery care, refrigeration plant maintenance to say nothing of looking after the planting and harvesting teams who get the broccoli fresh to the supermarkets.
It's precision farming which uses every high tech option to get the best yields and lay low the vagaries of the Irish weather.
The farm supplies all the main supermarket chains with the green super food and has to compete aggressively with British and continental producers.
"The farms are run on a field basis, not on a clock basis so everyone has to be ready to go as soon as the broccoli has reached the standard size required by the supermarkets. The timing between planting and harvesting is critical," Pat explains.
"It's very labour intensive and very weather dependent. Two weeks ago we were irrigating some of the fields and today we are racing against the rain," says the 38-year-old horticulturist.
It's a long way from his upbringing on the family's dairy farm the Moneygall side of Roscrea.