Last year this country produced over 777,000 tonnes of soft fruit with a value of nearly £700 million. Strawberries alone accounted for £284 million of sales. The soft fruit industry is growing with an increase of 3:5% in 12 months  but there are challenges. The fruit needs care and attention; protection from pest and disease that would damage it, nourishment from a good soil, adequate water and a healthy environment. But there is a problem. With an increased expectation in the quality of working conditions, changes to the law and an unknown future surrounding Brexit, farmers are struggling to find the labourers to harvest their valuable crops. At present, mechanisation can only go so far and the picking of the delicate fruit must be done by hand with sensitivity and with careful attention given to individual situations and condition if it is to be brought in successfully. Those willing to engage in the work are becoming harder to find.
In our reading from Matthew, Jesus draws a close parallel as he identifies a similar problem; ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few.’
We’re told that he had ‘compassion’ on the crowd as they needed care and attention and leadership; ‘like sheep without a shepherd.’ They were not receiving the spiritual nourishment they required from their religious leaders who saw the common people as a problem. Jesus saw them as people in need, people who needed guidance, people for whom he was prepared to give everything to help and to save.
What a very special sight it was to view the sheep following a lead down through the village of Askrigg in April with the tractor in front and James and Heather at the rear steering them to the ‘maternity wing’ for lambing.
Most followed the others easily enough but there were some who looked confused and unsure, raising their heads for guidance and here the onlookers gave a gentle signal with an arm outstretched to which the ewe duly responded and moved back into the safety and care of the flock. A lead had been given but the combined efforts of the team and their faithful dogs ensured that all went well.
It is one of the great Christian truths and supreme Christian challenges that the sheep will not be shepherded, nor the harvest reaped unless there are enough workers in the field to ensure that it takes place. Jesus Christ draws us into the incredible privilege of working with him to transform lives and we can all play our part.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to stand on a street corner with a placard calling out to those passing by, but it does mean we take opportunities where we can to witness to his love and his life and the joy that there is in knowing him. It may be a simple act of love or kindness – a phone call, a visit, a meal taken to a housebound neighbour or it may be a conversation, a comment, the offer of praying for someone in need or inviting to accompany them to a service. Every such act is participating in the harvest that Jesus is drawing us into.
It’s worth remembering that if we know Jesus it’s because someone, somewhere at some time blessed us by responding to his words and telling us about him.
Why not ask God’s Holy Spirit to show you where you’re needed today, enjoy the privilege of responding and feel the joy of the Spirit in your heart when you do.
With God’s blessing
 DEFRA 2015 statistics.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale