Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Coronavirus impacts at the farm

These are strange and worrying times. Now that cracks are appearing in the wider system, people are turning to local producers and suppliers. We are just now entering the infamous Hungry Gap, which is the worst time of year to try to supply fresh produce - April and May - too much daylight and warmth for winter crops, but too early for summer crops. But our shop is very busy, and demand for veg boxes has increased threefold.

Most of our international WWOOF volunteers have gone back to their families, and the four that remain with us have been here for a while, so they know their stuff out on the farm, but four is still half of what we need to operate comfortably. Our three core members of staff have stayed well so far, and are committed to the cause, but are all exhausted already. Some of our local volunteers have stayed away, we have asked some of our vulnerable volunteers not to come in, but others have stepped up to take their place. We had a team of six out digging potatoes today, all two metres apart in the field and yard. What amazing people.

We have reduced the shop opening times, from 10am till 5pm every day except Sunday, when we close at 2pm (normally we open till 6pm for seven days per week). Shop customers are asked to wash their hands before entering the shop, with only one customer allowed inside at a time, and payments by contactless where possible. We are sterilising surfaces and tongs continually. We ask all visitors to the farm to please wash their hands upon arrival, and keep at least two metres away from anybody else.

The restaurant trade is non-existant, but veg-box numbers are at 150 per week. We now have four volunteer drivers delivering on a Friday, three of them in their own vehicles. This is the worst time of year to attempt these numbers, and our resources are buckling under the strain, but the need is there and we will do our best to provide fresh local food to the local community. We are buying in other produce to supplement our own, and trying to buy as local and as organic as possible, but we may have to compromise soon. We have closed the veg box scheme to new customers because we simply can't cope with the numbers.

For people not able to come to the shop, or to join the veg-box scheme, we are running bespoke deliveries from the shop shelves, to within a 3-mile radius and minimum orders of £10. Please phone us on 788454 for this service, but be warned that we don't often have time to answer the phone.

There is a lot to be done out on the land preparing for the new season too. We have been planting potatoes, cucumbers, climbing beans, salads, herbs, kale and broad beans over the past two weeks, and next we have spring greens plus more tomatoes and kale to go in. We have also sown field-scale chard and beetroot, as well as sowing lots of summer veg in trays in the Propagation Station. This would be a very busy time of year even without the ongoing crisis.

We are doing the best we can to keep you fed, prepare the farm for the new season, and keep ourselves healthy and operational. Please bear with us at this very difficult time.

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