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Backbone of Britain: Farming community unites amid coronavirus pandemic

As the nation strives to keep coronavirus at bay, the farming community is pulling together in extraordinary ways. Farmers Guardian finds out more.

Backbone of Britain: Farming community unites amid coronavirus pandemic

Online Learning

 

As thousands of parents are now home-schooling their children, initiatives for home education and tools to inspire and educate children about food and where it comes from have emerged.

Emily and Guy French, of Foxes Farm Produce, Essex, are keen to inspire the next generation.

After schools closed, the husband and wife team created online educational farming lessons on YouTube.

The lessons are all set on their arable farm from which they run a variety of farm diversifications including two pumpkin patches, farm mud runs, as well as growing retail Christmas trees.

Emily says: “We are not media experts, just farmers.

We really wanted to help all the families and children in lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis, so we are putting together weekly educational videos of activities on our farm, using the hashtag #learnonthefarm.

“We thought this would provide a different perspective on education and learning to families about our own experiences and adventures on the ground during this crisis.”

 

NFU and the team of farmers at EatFarmNow have also launched a new #LockdownLearning project, a free, online resource which provides educational farming activities for children while they are away from school through online videos and social media.


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Emily and Guy French, Foxes Farm Produce, Essex.
Emily and Guy French, Foxes Farm Produce, Essex.

Small businesses unite

 

Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses in Lancashire has brought together a group of small, artisan food and drink producers from across north west England to offer a delivery service of fresh produce to homes in five counties in the region so far.

Consumers can now go online and purchase a basket of goods from a curated selection of local food and drink businesses from a specifically developed platform, The Butlers Larder.

Fourth generation family business owner Matthew Hall says: “The concept is taking away the challenge of buying online from each of the suppliers individually, essentially pooling our would-be customers into one place.

“Consumers can safely get the products they need while supporting local small businesses when they really need it.” With their customer base growing daily and feedback positive so far, Matthew says he is hopeful that some of the customers who may have sought out the service amid supermarket shortages will continue to do so in the future.

“A lot of customers so far have been surprised at how fresh products are.

We’re also able to offer that level of service larger retailers cannot accommodate, an ethos which I hope will resonate in the coming months.”

Penparc YFC, Ceredigion, member Mared Rees shops for supplies.
Penparc YFC, Ceredigion, member Mared Rees shops for supplies.
Avondale YFC, Lanarkshire, donated scrubs it had acquired for a past annual variety concert
Avondale YFC, Lanarkshire, donated scrubs it had acquired for a past annual variety concert

True YFC spirit shines

 

Young Farmers Clubs (YFCs) across the country have united to offer support and services to local residents in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One young farmer praised her local Alberbury YFC, Shropshire, for providing support to her family and members of the community in recent weeks.

With both of her parents working for the NHS alongside farming more than 61 hectares (150 acres) of land in Cressage, 18-year-old Evie Rogers says: “My father is a porter and my mum is a healthcare assistant for the NHS, but we also have about 300 ewes, which will now need lambing.

“It has been a very overwhelming time, but the YFC has been amazing in offering support.” Numerous YFCs have been using their platform to help vulnerable residents in their local communities with daily tasks such as collecting food shops and prescriptions.

One example being Erwood YFC, near Builth Wells, Powys, which now operates a Covid-19 support group.

Club competitions secretary Emma Jones says: “The community is so supportive of our club so offering support at a time like this is the least we can do to pay back residents for all they have done for us over the years.” Eleri George, Keyston YFC chairman, Pembrokeshire, added that her community’s response had been ‘humbling’.

She says: “The first delivery I did took my breath away, I was so touched to see just how grateful the couple were.” And with weekly meetings not able to go ahead, clubs have been finding other ways to keep morale high among members with weekly challenges, virtual quizzes and online fundraising activities.

Donated

 

Chris Potter, chairman of the Shropshire Federation of Young Farmer’s Clubs, is taking part in a sponsored beard shave, in which all funds will be donated to the NHS and Air Ambulance charity.

 

Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs have also raised more than £2,000 for the NHS key workers and the NHS Nightingale Hospital to be opened in Harrogate, after it hosted its spring dance this year online.

 

The county event, normally held at Club Amadeus in Northallerton, was brought to life virtually by county vice-chairman Stephen Jarmuz, aka DJ Jarmuz, who manned the decks, with money raised through donations made for song requests.

Avondale YFC, Lanarkshire, also donated scrubs it had acquired for a past annual variety concert to a local hospital.

Numerous clubs have also got behind the viral #toiletrollchallenge, which sees edited clips of group members throwing a toilet roll between them in different farming locations (see picture, right).

Craswall YFC, Herefordshire, also succeeded in injecting some laughter and positivity into their local community, thanks to members Ellie and Will Layton’s #IsoLayton video, which has a tongue-in-cheek look at life on their home farm since lockdown began.

YFCs from across the UK have been helping their local communities.
YFCs from across the UK have been helping their local communities.

YFC montage: From left to right

  • Dan Morgan from Keyston YFC, Pembrokeshire, delivers shopping

  • Baking deliveries from Sarah Armstrong, Brandon and Wolston YFC, Warwickshire
  • Avondale YFC, Lanarkshire, donated scrubs it had acquired for a past annual variety concert to a local hospital
  • Yorkshire Federation county vice-chairman Stephen Jarmuz, aka DJ Jarmuz, manned the decks for the counties virtual Spring Dance 2020
  • Phil Wilson and Alicia Bexon from Uttoxeter JNFU delivering flowers, colouring and puzzle books to nursing homes in their area
  • Yorkshire Federation county vice-chairman Stephen Jarmuz at a previous event
  • Olivia Larson from Ashley YFC, Staffordshire, delivers supplies
  • Forfar JAC members donated different foodstuffs to a local food bank
  • Will and Ellie Layton from Craswall YFC, Herefordshire, created their own #IsoLayton video to inject some laughter and positivity into their local community
  • Centre: Richard Bower, beef and cereals farmer from Staffordshire, posted his tribute on Twitter

More from the farming community

Just some of the tweets and tales from the farming community, all doing their utmost to raise people's spirits;

  • Live chick updates for children: Peacock Farms, Muston, North Yorkshire, has live chick updates for those children at home wanting to tune in
  • Rainbows raising spirits: Children across the country are painting rainbows to show their support and encourage people to stay safe.
  • Catrin Batt, aged five, from More from the farming community Garth Farm, Abergavenny is raising spirits on the family’s 34-hectare (85-acre) farm, where, says her mum, Claire, home-schooling currently means lambing their 75 ewes
  • Keeping up communication: Pig farmer Peter Mortimer, Suffolk, took the time to phone retired pig exhibitors to make sure they are keeping well in times of isolation
  • NHS tributes: Farmers across the country have been posting their own tributes and thanks to the NHS by getting creative

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