According to an old Maltese saying, in March the wheat grows, in April you tend to it, and in May you reap the harvest. However, harvest time is over and from gold-coloured fields, today all one can see are tens of haystacks which represent one year’s worth of feed for cattle.
Brothers Eric and Mark Vella are the third generation of farmers who take care of large wheat fields in the north of Malta. They explain that wheat is planted in the last two months of the year and is allowed to grow slowly.
“We then help it to grow with sulphate. When the first rains come, we cover it with a bit of sulphate. Then we leave it in God’s hands,” said Eric Vella.
Eric said that this year was a poor one because there were two months without any rain, however the rainfall we had recently has helped. “It would have been disastrous. There would not even have been enough for the cattle in Malta. But in the end everything worked out.”
The harvest began in April and continued in May. In the past, the work used to be all done by hand. Today they use a tractor. “The scythe is no longer used, it just used as a decoration these days.”
The wheat which is harvested is left on the ground for around two weeks to dry properly and then they start tying it up.
“My brother then goes by with a tractor to put them into piles. Then I go by and pack them into round bundles, as you can see from the large rolls behind me,” said Mark Vella.
Each round bundle weighs between 300 and 400 kilos and is mostly used as feed for cows. They are also packed into smaller, square rolls to be used for small flocks and for horses.
The haystacks are left outdoors and around the time of the feast of Santa Maria, when we usually get the first rainfall, they are covered up so that they do not get wet.
The hay is mostly used for animals. Cows, sheep, horses all need hay, especially those animals which produce milk.
However, the hay which is harvested from the fields in Malta is not enough for the demand required by local farmers who also import wheat from other countries.