It has been a tough harvest for Pembrokeshire’s farmers, with unsettled weather and spiralling costs of production.

Unremitting rain in July and August followed by a stormy September meant that many crops were still standing in the fields when parishes congregated for their harvest festivals.

Waterlogged fields, wet sprouting corn and vast drying costs combined to make it a difficult harvest for many.

The irony of Charles Wesley’s words: ‘All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin’ was not lost on the congregation at our own service earlier this month, as all had most certainly not been gathered in and we had already experienced some of those storms well before winter had set in.

Harvest festivals celebrate the time of year when crops have been gathered from the fields and people can reflect and show gratitude for the food that they have. It is traditionally celebrated around the time of the harvest moon, the full moon nearest to the autumn equinox at the end of September.

Thanks is given for food and, in a nod to the challenging 2023 harvest, our vicar gave recognition of the extra work and stress this year has caused and how some of the effects of that will continue into next year and beyond.

When I was a girl, there would be many farmers in our village church for that service, farmers who were unlikely to be found in the congregation at other times of the year but thanksgiving for the harvest was a must.

There would be sacks of potatoes freshly lifted from the fields, bunches of carrots and parsnips and buckets of different varieties of apples. The service would be followed by an auction of that produce, with the proceeds donated to charity.

It is very different today.

Gifts of fresh fruit and vegetables have been replaced by non-perishable food in tins and jars to donate to the local food bank.

There are far fewer farmers in the congregation too, perhaps because less people in general attend church than they did back then but also because the numbers now making their living from the land have dwindled.

Changing times indeed.

  • Our monthly publication Pembrokeshire Farmer is back, free with your copy of the Western Telegraph this week (October 25)