17th April 2020


Rural Rap

ONE OF KENT’S FASTEST GROWING INDUSTRIES IS FIGHTING TO KEEP ITS FIZZ AS SALES SLUMP DURING LOCKDOWN, reports the Kent Messenger.  The pandemic has hit commercial vineyards across Kent, forcing the cancellation of tours and tastings, and slashing revenues due to the closure of hospitality venues.  Kent has over 50 commercial outfits, and has developed a reputation as the fine wine capital of England.  Biddenden Vineyards has seen revenues collapse by 70%, virtually overnight.   Chapel Down says sales to the hospitality trade have caused a 35% loss in income on top of the loss of revenue from the cancellation of vineyard tours and the closure of its own shops, bar and restaurant.

THE OWNER OF A FARM WHICH SUPPLIES THE ICONIC WIMBLEDON STRAWBERRIES HAS SPOKEN ABOUT THE IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS, reports the Kent Messenger.  With the All-England Championships cancelled and lockdown putting pressure on the fruit-picking workforce, the ongoing pandemic is proving a challenge for Hugh Lowe Farms in Mereworth.  Last year the farm supplied over 33 tons of strawberries to the tournament.   The farm has about a quarter of its needed workforce, but is now trying to address the 75% labour shortfall.   kentonline.co.uk/malling/news/wimbledon-berry-growers-covid-19-challenges-225743/

A WOMAN HAS BEEN ARRESTED FOR THE KILLING OF A PREGNANT SHEEP NEAR GRAVESEND, reports Kent Police, Farming UK and the Kent Messenger, among others.  Officers from the Rural Taskforce appealed for information after the deceased ewe, which was in lamb, was found in farmland at the end of last month.  A lamb was also reported stolen.  A woman in her 30s was arrested in Greenhithe and has been released pending further enquiries.

PICKERS ARE BEING BROUGHT TO THE UK FROM ROMANIA BY CHARTER FLIGHT, reports the Kent Messenger, the BBC and many others.  It is reported that up to six flights have been organised to bring experienced Eastern European farm workers to Britain.  The first, carrying 180 Romanian workers, has been chartered by G’s Growers, one of the UK’s largest vegetable producers.  G’s has worked in line with guidance from PHE and the move will ensure that picking teams have a percentage of experienced workers who will help train and keep our new workforce safeWorkers are being brought in under strict protocols – they will all be quarantined within small working teams in hostel accommodation.

THE CLA IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGING WORKERS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO MEET THE HARVEST WORKER SHORTFALL, reports the CLA.  While over 30,000 people have come forward to help farmers, only 4,300 applicants have – so far – taken up the offer of an interview.  At least 80,000 workers are needed in total to ensure that fruit and vegetables are picked on time this season.  The CLA says “bringing in workers from overseas to help meet the shortfall is the right thing to do…however we strongly encourage people to keep coming forward…There are good jobs available and great opportunities for those currently furloughed, unemployed or students.”

OXEYE DAISIES, HAREBELLS AND OTHER WILDFLOWERS COULD HAVE THEIR BEST SUMMER IN YEARS IF COUNCILS REDUCE ROADSIDE VERGE MOWING, reports Kent Online.  The UK’s more than 310,000 miles of rural road verges have become a refuge for wildflowers squeezed out of the wider countryside, but often fall victim to frequent mowing – which does not let them bloom and seed.  With coronavirus putting pressure on council services and causing staff shortages, non-essential activities such as spring mowing could fall by the wayside.  This would also have the environmental benefit of cutting 22,754 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

SIGNIFICANT CONCERNS HAVE BEEN RAISED OVER PROPOSED EVENTS TO RELEASE HUNDREDS OF SKY LANTERNS IN AID OF THE NHS, reports the farming press.  The campaign, which aims to occur every Sunday, would see the release of Union Jack sky lanterns from gardens and driveways of houses across the country.  The aim of the initiative is to raise money and support the NHS, and has been launched by Night Sky Lanterns – the company selling the products.  Sky lanterns are a menace in the countryside: drifting for miles they result in sheep, cattle and horses being injured or even dying from eating the wire metal frames.   The National Fire Chiefs Council has also described the campaign as “misguided.”  CLA said “releasing a naked flame, with absolutely no control over where it will land is a serious threat to rural businesses, livestock, wildlife and the environment.”

A £10M FUND HAS BECOME AVAILABLE FOR FARMERS AND LAND MANAGERS TO CREATE NEW WOODLANDS TO HELP TACKLE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE, reports Farming UK.  The figure will be available in the second auction of the Woodland Carbon Guarantee £50m pot, the Forestry Commission announced.  The scheme gives farmers the option to sell Woodland Carbon units to the government at a guaranteed price which is protected against inflation.  Land managers are encouraged to sign up to the scheme by 5th June. farminguk.com/news/-10m-fund-to-help-farmers-create-new-woodlands_55424.html


A huge number of military veterans are on the hunt for casual farm labour over the coming months. 

To discuss the possibilities further, please email info@ruralplc.com or sophiedproudfoot@gmail.com in the first instance and we will put you in direct contact with those leading the project.


A NEW APP HAS BEEN LAUNCHED WHICH ENABLES USERS TO REPORT A FULL RANGE OF INFORMATION RELATING TO RURAL CRIME IN KENT.  The Country Eye App was prompted through a project initiated by Peter Rolington and Mike Bax and developed by Ether Creative in Maidstone. The App can be downloaded onto mobile phones free of charge. It enables users to report a full range of information related to rural crime, including fly tipping and has now passed the impressive milestone of 5000 users. Information is reported every day from all over Kent and relayed by Country Eye to Kent Police or other relevant authority. Linked to the report is a facility to photograph the location of an incident or event, which goes through to Country Eye with a GPS location enabling easy identification of the site. If you haven’t done so already, go to the App Store and download Country Eye.  https://countryeye.co.uk/ 


RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk


Thousands of temporary workers are needed on British farms to help feed the nation during the coronavirus pandemic. 
Jobs are available on fruit farms, arable farms, livestock farms and in pack houses – with workers also needed to fill other vacancies. 
Follow @Kentslandarmy on Facebook for specific opportunities, or visit:
To apply, please visit: Hops Labour Solutions: https://hopslaboursolutions.com/
Concordia: www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk / 01273 422 218
Pro-Force Recruitment: https://pro-force.co.uk/ / 0333 335 6262
CDS Labour: http://cdslabour.co.uk/
British Summer Fruits: www.britishsummerfruits.co.uk/jobs / 020 7575 7654



Do you need someone to talk to?
The Farming Community Network
Helpline: 03000 111 999
7am – 11pm, every day of the year
Available to anyone in the farming community

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