Updated: May 21, 2020
This is the first harvest.
Joseph Smith ~ Brigham Young
Barley is a short harvest ~ 2 months
Barley Offering to the Temple ~ Day 2 of Passover
What is it?
The Barley Harvest represents the time of the early Saints or the "overcomers" as well as Christ's Resurrection. Barley is a hardy plant that is able to withstand early frosts and drought. "When the scriptures talk of grain or meal in time of drought, it generally refers to barley, for wheat cannot grow under such severe conditions." Article here. Also, it didn't take much to separate the grain from the stalk. The action it takes to separate the next harvests (wheat, grapes, olive) becomes more and more aggressive, representing sin and the purifying process.
In Israel, there are three main "feast" days that are associated with three main Jewish holidays:
Barley = Passover = harvested in early Spring = the overcomers
Wheat = Pentecost = harvested in early Summer & Fall = main body of believers
Grapes = Tabernacles = harvested in mid-late Summer = hastening/unbelievers
Olives = Fall Harvest = Olive Press/Preserved or Scattered (connected with the Grapes)
The Barley Harvest is often call the Feast of "First Fruits" in the Jewish community. "First Fruits" imply that a greater harvest is yet to come. In this great article I linked above, it says, "The three feasts of Israel, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles represent the three stages of salvation from justification to sanctification to glorification." I love this insight! When the "first fruits" or barley that is the first to be ripe, a cut of that barley is made as a sacred offering or sacrifice, at the altar in their temple. This offering was usually taken, grained, then grounded into flour and sifted 12 times for it had to be pure. It was then made into an unleavened (flat) bread by combining the pure flour, olive oil and salt. Honey wasn't allowed to be added because it represents corruption or things that weren't preservable like sin.
In Exodus 9, the 7th plague was a hailstorm which was very damaging to this early crop:
31 And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was in bud.
Lets connect these points. The barley represents the early Saints during Joseph Smith's time. They were heavily persecuted, terrorized and murdered by mobs and then executive order from Missouri. Barley is the very first crop to be "harvested". The early Saints had many sore trials to overcome, thus they are the "overcomers."
Testimony Through the Harvests
I believe that this is also a "type" as to our personal testimonies, meaning, if we plant that seed of faith, a testimony grows. This testimony may grow to the barley stage but be destroyed by hail, persecution or peer pressure. If we can overcome that stage, the main body of our testimony continues to grow but it grows with the tares (as wheat grows with the tares) around us which can either drag us down or strengthen us. If we keep ourselves separated from the world, in a spiritual sense, live in the world but not of it, then when the harvest time comes, we will not be cut down and thrown into the fire with the tares. Lastly, in the late summer of our testimony, if we have sufficiently "pruned" ourselves, "watered" and nurtured our "soil" (prayer, scripture, commandments, good-works, etc.) then will our "fruits" of our labors be sweet and not spoil.
Then as a last test, we are shaken as Olive trees and thrown into the Olive Press and are either preserved unto the Lord as His righteous remnant, or we are cast aside. The stronger the testimony, the bigger your faith and love of God. The larger your love of God, the more commandments you will follow. The more commandments you keep, the more obedient you are, the more obedient you are, the larger your strength to overcome any trial no matter how difficult.
Strengthen those roots now!
We need to look for the sign that will tell us when the next harvest will be. The next harvest is the Wheat Harvest. Wheat is the longest harvest.