Edgell field officers visited regularly to check the pea crops, ensuring the famers were keeping up with their part of the contract. They would also take Maturity Index (MI) readings as part of the monitoring process to help them calculate when the crop would be ready to harvest.
Unlike other vegetables, peas mature in a matter of hours, so monitoring their growth is essential to receiving a successful crop and the best quality product possible. As the crop comes closer to maturity, the field officers spend all hours of the day and night monitoring its progress. If they miss the right level of maturity, the peas become hard like bullets and are worth a lot less.
After taking his MI readings, one Wednesday, the field officer told us that with the continued warm fine weather forecast, the peas would be ready for harvest during the early hours of Saturday morning. This meant the harvesters would arrive late Friday night in preparation.
My husband, Mark, explained to the field officer that we would prefer the crop not be harvested at this time, which would be during the Sabbath hours. He requested that they wait until after Sabbath closed at sunset on Saturday night. He explained about Sabbath and the importance of observing it to the field officer. But the field officer became annoyed and was adamant that the crop would be harvested when he thought appropriate, as stated in the contract.
Due to being locked into a contract, the only way we could see of getting around the Sabbath issue was to take it to God in prayer.
The next day--Thursday--after offering many prayers to God, Mark was asked to meet with the field officer, field manager, production manager and manager. He again explained the importance of Sabbathkeeping and the relevance of not working on the Sabbath, even for anyone "within their gates," as instructed in the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20.
The managers explained again to Mark that if the crop was left to be harvested when he wanted, the peas could be overmature, with a very high MI reading. Consequently, we would receive the lowest payment rate per ton and the peas would be like bullets, which was not in Edgell-Birdseye's interest. They emphasised to him that once they had taken out the costs due to Edgell, for the seed, planting and harvesting of the crop, our crop payment would be reduced even further.
They asked if we had considered that by the time we took out our other costs--such as fertiliser, irrigation and labour--we might actually make a substantial loss.
Mark responded by telling them we believed God was in control. He could either turn it into a bumper crop or let it fail, but ultimately, we would leave it completely in God's hands as it was His crop.
To the annoyance of the field officer, after telling Mark how foolish they thought he and his family were, the managers decided they would respect our religious beliefs and hold off the harvest until just after sunset on Saturday night, even if the crop was ready for harvest earlier. What a relief and an answer to prayer!
But God wasn't finished. Our pea crop not only became the topic of interest to many of the employees at Edgell-Birdseye but also the townsfolk and surrounding farmers who had heard what was happening. Many in the district knew our family well, knew of our faith and that we only ever worked six days a week--never on Sabbath. They were all watching with considerable interest. Unexpectedly, Friday morning dawned cold, overcast and drizzly--a cold front had moved in overnight. This was contrary to the longrange weather forecast and unusual for that time of the year. As the cooler weather would slow down the maturing of the pea crop, the field officer told us that based on the new MI readings, the crop would not be ready for harvesting until midnight Saturday night. God not only answered our prayers for not harvesting on Sabbath, He also brought in a cold front to slow down the maturing of the peas.
Still, God wasn't finished yet. Very rarely will a pea crop yield both a low MI reading for high quality and high tonnage per acre. Much to the amazement of the Edgell-Birdseye management and staff--and the interested on lookers--this pea crop had the lowest MI reading, giving the highest quality supplied for the season. It also had one of the highest tonnages per acre in the district.
Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible. Matthew 19:26. Jenny Keegan now lives in Mittagong, New South Wales, with her family, but about 20 years ago--at the time of this story--both she and her husband, Mark, worked for Edgell-Birdseye in Manjimup, Western Australia, as well as helping with the family farm.