19th June 2020


Rural Rap

WIMBLEDON’S STRAWBERRIES ARE BEING TURNED INTO JAM, reports the front page of the Sunday Times.  After the championships were cancelled due to the pandemic, 750kg of Hugh Lowe Farms’ strawberries were still bought by Wimbledon and sent to England Preserves to be made into jam.  Traditionally this was the destination for leftover strawberries after the tennis was over.  Strawberries have been served at Wimbledon since the first tournament in 1877.  Last year 500,000 fans polished off 191,930 portions – 1.9m berries – at £2.50a bowl, topped with 7,000 litres of cream.  The farm, which is based in Kent, is sending its other strawberries to supermarkets, farm shops and independent stores, as well as local schools and food banks.   thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/the-real-lockdown-mystery-where-have-wimbledons-strawberries-gone-3h6bzs60g

KENT’S RURAL BUSINESSES ARE STARTING THE CAUTIOUS PROCESS OF REOPENING WITH NEW POST-LOCKDOWN MEASURES IN PLACE.  Faversham’s Shepherd Neame has reopened its brewery shop and restarted cask ale production; Macknade has reopened its new store at Elwick Place in Ashford; Beer on the Pier in Herne Bay is serving takeaway local cask ales and other refreshments; Brogdale’s orchards are now open again for self-guided tours; The Old Dairy brewery shop is open again; the Hush Heath Estate is welcoming visitors for self-guided walks and customers at its cellar door shop; Great Comp Garden, Mount Ephraim and Belmont are among gardens that are reopen to the public; Biddenden Vineyards’ shop is now open again; as is the Hop Shop at Castle Farm.  These names are among the many other rural businesses opening again across the county.  For details of the businesses listed above, please visit:  producedinkent.co.uk/news/

The Farmers Club in London also plans to reopen its doors on Monday 13th July, with post-lockdown measures in place including temperature checks on arrival.  thefarmersclub.com/news/plans-to-re-open-the-farmers-club

KENT’S RURAL TASK FORCE HAS BEEN TARGETTING POACHING FROM KENT’S LAKES AND RIVERS, reports Kent Police.  Special officers have worked with the Angling trust as part of Kent Police’s contribution to National Volunteer Week and ran between the 6th & 7th June.  Operation Traverse is a partnership effort between police and the Angling Trust to target those who fish illegally and the crimes that are often associated with the offence.  Several fishing offences were evident and action was taken against those without a licence.  Sites visited include the River Teise, Goudhurst, Lullington Country Park, Mote Park, Medway Valley Fisheries and Singleton Lake in Ashford.

CELEBRATE ENGLISH WINE WEEK BY ENJOYING ENGLISH WINES NEXT WEEK, reports Kent Online.  English Wine Week runs from Saturday 20th June to Sunday 28th June and celebrates the best of the country’s home grown wine – much of which is grown in Kent.  In anticipation, the newspaper has printed a list of places to source your local wine: Chapel Down – available in Waitrose or from its Tenterden-based shop.  Hush Heath’s shop is now open again in Staplehurst and is also available to order online.  Simpsons Wine Estate, near Canterbury, is offering free delivery with its online orders.  Biddenden Vineyard is taking online orders.  Macknade is offering a virtual tasting live from its store on Friday 26th June at 6.30pm.   kentonline.co.uk/whats-on/news/toast-english-wine-week-with-kent-wine-228853/

MORE ENGLISH PEOPLE THAN EVER APPLIED TO WORK ON KENT’S FARMS THIS YEAR BUT MANY WERE LEFT DISAPPOINTED, report Kent Live.  However, according to two young fruit pickers, the reality of the job is a lot different to what most people imagine.  Forget thoughts of idyllic lazy days surrounded by vast countryside, the work is hard graft, repetitive and not easy.  The two work at Clock House farm near Maidstone, along with 400 others.  This workforce increases to 750 as the season develops.  Of these, the majority are Eastern European but not due to the cheapness of the labour, but rather how flexible the workers are prepared to be.  Picking usually starts at 5.45am and continues for nine hours until 2.30pm, to avoid the intensity of the afternoon heat in the tunnels. kentlive.news/news/kent-news/exhausting-reality-fruit-picking-kent-4208582

UP TO 80% OF THE UK’S BARN OWNS NOW NEST IN MAN-MADE BOXES, reports the Guardian.   Lynne and Peter Flower, who volunteer for the Kent Wildlife Farm, visited the writer’s in Kent to monitor a habited box – the first successful box on the farm in 17 years.  This mini success is being repeated across the country.  In 1987 barn owls were at their lowest ebb with 4,500 breeding pairs, having declined 70% since 1932.  Now there are an estimated 12,000 breed pairs in the UK.   More than 20,000 boxes have now been put up nationally.  The Kent Wildlife Trust decided that the barn owl would be its flagship species had has put up 40 boxes around Sevenoaks alone.  Since doing so, the population has increased.   theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/11/barn-owls-are-back-in-growing-numbers-and-for-once-its-thanks-to-humans-aoe

GROWERS ARE WARNING THAT SUPPLIES OF BRITISH APPLES AND PEARS COULD BE TIGHT THIS YEAR, reports the Grocer.  “Unprecedented” challenges have been posed to the industry by volatile weather, coronavirus and labour issues.  Top fruit growers are expecting a lower than average crop from this year’s harvest.  A clearer picture of the sector’s overall yield would become more apparent within the next few weeks.  Last autumn’s weather – the fifth wettest and warmest on record – followed by more rain during the winter months contributed to a phenomenon known as “wet feet,” which led to increased stress on trees and their fruit. thegrocer.co.uk/fruit-and-veg/british-apple-and-pear-harvests-could-shrink-this-year/645458.article

THE BRITISH HOP INDUSTRY RISKS COLLAPSE AS PUB SHUTDOWNS HIT DEMAND, reports the Financial Times.  The centuries-old UK hop growing industry is at risk of collapse after the months-long closure of pubs during lockdown left brewers unwilling to buy next year’s crop.  Only 40% of the 2021 contract is under contract to brewers, who have been left with a surplus this year after a steep drop in consumption.  The British Hop Association said that, without intervention, there was a serious risk that growers will scrub their hops and move into different crops and, “if they exit the industry, we won’t get them back.”  ft.com/content/5fe5ec81-b25a-4fd3-993a-74ee66735bb7

A PETITION CALLING ON THE GOVERNMENT TO UPHOLD THE UK’S HIGH FOOD AND FARMING STANDARDS IN ANY BREXIT TRADE DEAL HAS REACHED OVER 1M SIGNATURES, reports Farming UK, The Kent Messenger, Farmers Weekly and many others.  The petition, launched by the NFU, urges the government to put into law rules that prevent lower-standard food from being imported.  The NFU commented that “that more than 1m people have signed the petition is a clear signal of how passionate British public feel about this issue.”  Batters went on to say that the NFU is presenting a “simple solution” through the establishment of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission.   farminguk.com/news/brexit-food-standards-petition-reaches-1-million-signatures_55895.html

THE CLA DEFENDS MUCH OF THE GOVERNMENT’S AGRICULTURE BILL AS “COMMENDABLE,” writes the CLA President.  The Agriculture Bill, which returned to the House of Lords last week for its second week contains policy which aims to move to a more sustainable farming industry that can increase wildlife, store carbon and protect soil, water and air quality as well as produce food.  The CLA describes the tying of payments to the provision of environmental and other public goods as “commendable,” but adds that there is a “sting in the tail…” namely the sharp cuts in the phasing out of direct payments.  Direct payments accounf for 58% of the average farm business income, broadly equivalent to profit.  Only 25% of farming enterprises are profitable without these payments, meaning many farms are at risk of failure.  The CLA believes that the Agriculture Bill has “sensible goals at its heart,” but says that “farmers must be heard.  Getting the transition away from the CAP right is crucial.”  cla.org.uk/biggest-change-agriculture-policy-could-take-its-toll-farmers

FARMERS HAVE CALLED ON THE BRITISH PUBLIC TO LOBBY THEIR MPs REGARDING FOOD SECURITY, reports Farming UK.  The call comes as a result of the government blocking an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would have banned food imports produced to lower standards in the event of any trade deal.  It is not too late, according to the FUW, to lobby MPs before the Bill becomes law and, if successful, this could avoid “long-term adverse impacts” for UK food security and consumer health.

THE GOVERNMENT SPEND JUST £16,500 ON THE FLAGSHIP “PICK FOR BRITAIN” CAMPAIGN, reports Farmnig UK.  The DEFRA campaign was unveiled in April to entice the British public to work on farms over the busy harvest period against the backdrop of the pandemic.  The website sets out ways to bring farm workers and employers together, but the government is being criticised for failing to do enough.  A Freedom of Information request shows that just £16,500 has been spent on the campaign, despite industry estimates that there could be a shortage of 80,000 farm workers.   farminguk.com/news/government-criticised-for-spending-pittance-on-pick-for-britain-_55869.html

CORONAVIRUS PRESENTS A REAL OPPORTUNITY FOR THE HARD-HIT AGRICULTURAL AND TOURISM INDUSTRIES TO HELP EACH OTHER OUT OF THIS FINANCIAL HOLE, reports the Telegraph.  The UK has a diverse agricultural structure, with around 192,000 farms – of which only 20% have more than 25 acres.  Around 50% are family run holdings of less than 50 acres.  Farmers are facing a picking crisis, with a shortage of international workers, as well as complex supply chain issues.  Alongside that is a nation of people rethinking their travel aspirations and realistic travel options.  Unlike Italy, Spain, Portugal and France, the UK has not yet turned agriturismo into a tourism trend, but as we emerge from lockdown, we’re ready to get more intimate with farms, making a week of it, staying in a cabin or a yurt and picking crops – a good old-fashioned farmstay in Wales is as giddy a daydream as a glossy beach resort on Mykonos.    telegraph.co.uk/travel/comment/anna-hart-agritourism-uk-farm-holidays/

THE UK’S FRUIT AND VEG GROWERS ARE FACING A STEEP INCREASE IN LABOUR COSTS, writes the Financial Times.  Growers are struggling to retain hastily recruited local pickers after lockdown prevented the arrival of the usual seasonal workforce from Eastern Europe.  As the UK enters picking season, growers of crops from strawberries to asparagus said they were struggling as their higher recruitment and labour costs were not matched by any increase in prices paid for the produce.  ft.com/content/860d8651-455b-4012-8f60-8b1ba7afca32

AS NON-ESSENTIAL SHOPS ARE ALLOWED TO REOPEN, WE MUST NOT FORGET TO SUPPORT THE LOCAL ENTERPRISES THAT HELPED US THROUGH LOCKDOWN, writes the Countryside Alliance.  Businesses both small and large have had to re-evaluate how they run and, in turn, how that will affect their customers.  Local stores have been representing the saving grace of shoppers during the crisis, with shops such as these seeing a 63% increase in sales over the period.  All local businesses, from the corner shop to the local butcher are exceedingly important to local communities and to the rural economy.  As we return to normal it is vital to continue to support these small businesses.


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



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