At the beginning of February, De Zeeuw, a radish farm in ’s-Gravenzande, the Netherlands, sent out an appeal on Twitter. They needed someone to come and help mechanically harvest their radishes. The vacancy has since been filled, but not without some difficulty. Just in time for the annual peak period.
Radish grower, Jolanda de Zeeuw says, “Good weather is good for radish consumption. Radishes sell better then. At the same time, radishes also grow extra fast resulting in a large supply. This places pressure on that market, leading to low prices."
This supply comes from greenhouses but also, in the meantime, from full soil cultivation in Germany. "As soon as Germany comes onto the market, we, as greenhouse growers, feel it immediately. A large amount comes onto the market all at once then. This year, this is even earlier than usual thanks to the good weather. This good weather means radishes, everywhere, start growing extra fast."
The weather is always very important when it comes to radish cultivation. It cannot be controlled either. The calendar, however, also plays a role. This year, Easter is later in the year, which does not help. "At the moment, everyone is fishing in a pond with too many fishes. An early Easter is actually more beneficial for greenhouse growers. Because then there is less supply and price are usually better," explains Jolanda.
For these reasons, most of the radishes harvested at De Zeeuw are sold beforehand. Sales are done via the Dutch produce wholesaler, Versland Selection. “Selling on the free market is, generally, not advisable. There, often, large batches are sold. This then affects everyone on the market. That includes the farmer who, at that moment, is offering his product far too cheaply; well below market price."
Machine has been running for 21 years
The peak period still lasts until the end of August. Then, in Jolanda's experience, it gradually becomes somewhat quieter. "This is why we are also always looking for extra personnel. Especially for the period between March and August," continues the farmer.
"In previous years, an advert in the regional newspaper would easily result in 150 reactions from, for example, school-leavers. Last year, it was already more difficult. Now, that the economy is recovering, finding staff is very difficult. Eventually, we finally managed to get a suitable candidate by using an employment agent."
This year, this person will be there for the farm's bushel machine's 21st birthday. "In May, we will have been using this machine for 21 years already. The bushels are pulled up by the machine. We then packed them immediately while, at the same time, doing quality control," says Jolanda.
"It takes some getting used to for the new staff. Everyone also needs to learn to harvest the bushels by hand. They need to learn this before they are allowed to use the machine. There are, however, enough experienced people here. They quickly teach everyone the tricks of the trade."
"And that is important. Because we try to distinguish ourselves by having bushels that are always of good quality and have the correct number of radishes," she concludes.