As the effects of coronavirus start to take hold of the UK, the LWA is working to do everything we can to be an effective organisation to support our members. Grassroots organisations such as ours are essential during difficult times like these, and the more we can mobilise an effective mutual network, for support and solidarity, the better we will come through these difficult times.
We are exploring what the LWA can do to be most effective and helpful. We have 5 key areas of support we are working on, and we welcome all input into developing our response together, so please get in touch if you have any thoughts. Developing some of these measures may take some time, but we’re working hard to make them available as soon as possible, and we will communicate transparently with our members about how our plans are progressing.
1. Solidarity Pot for members facing financial hardship
We have set up a Solidarity Pot to support members facing financial hardship due to the impacts of Coronavirus. The aim of this pot is to support our members facing difficult circumstances and help members bridge an urgent gap and to respond quickly to changing circumstances. We have created a pool of money from LWA reserves and donations that members can request a loan of up to £500 from to help them out during these hard and unpredictable times. You can find information about how to apply or donate to the Solidarity Pot here.
2. Business support, helpline and webinars.
Many producers are facing huge changes in their sales channels and business models. Producers selling into local markets have already seen increased demand for food. Demand continues to rise for online sales, box schemes, CSAs and deliveries, but restaurant trade and tourism reliant models will struggle as the hospitality industry shuts. The fate of farm shops and farmers’ markets is unclear.
How stable food imports from Europe will be is also unclear. We are hearing that producers in Italy and Spain are suffering and scaling back spring planting. This is particularly the case with bigger producers who rely on seasonal workers from Eastern Europe and are unable to find staff because of movement restrictions. This is likely to have a knock on effect into the summer reducing supply and increasing demand and price [already happening] for produce. We hope that supplies can be kept open through the hungry gap until the UK season starts.
We are helping to share best practice in dealing with these changes, from highlighting any government support available, to advice on how to run your farmshop safely during the months ahead. You can see the safer working practices advice we’ve collated, and the list of resources we have identified here, and we encourage you to use our forums (we have set up a coronavirus specific board), and regional facebook groups to share your ideas and thoughts.
We are also exploring setting up a helpline for people who want to make changes to business models. There will be someone on the end of the phone who is able to talk things through with you, and direct you to other producers doing similar things if that is useful. We also aim to get some webinars and online discussion groups set up exploring different sales systems and online models.
We welcome input from producers who are running innovative models they would like to share, or are making changes to their businesses. If you would like to host a webinar or online discussion please let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help arrange this.
In the first instance we have in partnership with The Organic Growers Alliance and CSA Network created this self organising spreadsheet to partner people up with potential advisors. Please input your info if you are seeking advice or have expertise to offer.
3. Connecting producers as supply structures change
For many producers it is likely that this situation will mean changing their business models and finding alternative routes to sell due to closure of markets or loss of customers, or businesses needing produce due to loss of suppliers, changing deliveries or changing models. It may also mean a shortage of labour with restrictions on travel and a need to find new workers or volunteers.
Where possible the LWA will help with this, putting you in touch with other members in your area and using our forum, social media etc to help connect you to others to increase cooperation between producers.
4. Looking after ourselves and creating a buddy system.
Farming can be hard and isolating at the best of times, and in moments of such extreme uncertainty as these it’s vital that as landworkers we are able to support each other
We encourage you to connect with a buddy to support each other during the months ahead – ideally another food producer, farmer or landworker. If you’d like to connect with LWA members in your area or sector to find a buddy then get in touch with our Membership Secretary email@example.com and we can help make that happen.
We also have a Landworkers’ Alliance Zoom account which we can use for online meetings, webinars and skill shares. The advantage of Zoom is that multiple people can be in the same meeting and access either by computer or by phone. Let us know if you would like to host a meeting though Zoom and we can support you to do this. Otherwise watch this space for regional or sector specific open sessions for checking in.
We would also like to make you aware of these resources and helplines to seek further support with your mental health.
5. Linking producers with people experiencing food poverty
Food supplies are already running out for people relying on emergency food aid. In the coming months as many face loss of income through businesses closures, illness, self isolation and the need to care for others, the hundreds of thousands of households that regularly run out of money to buy food will face increasing preciousness and uncertainty of how they will access food on a daily basis.
Wherever possible we would like to connect producers who have surpluses with community groups working to address hunger and food poverty. If you are able to support us with this work, let us know.
In the first instance please find your nearest food bank or community group from this list and please redirect any surplus you can their way. You can find a list of food banks here.
As this situation develops the most important thing is that we stay in touch and support one another as much as possible. Across the UK, it has been moving and inspiring how fast and effectively communities have responded to this unfolding and unpredictable situation. Everywhere people have been mobilising into action, creating local support networks, offering solidarity, care and friendship. As landworkers we have a vital role we can play in this crisis; it will be challenging and a lot of us will have to creatively adapt our distribution and supply models as we work hard to make sure as many people as possible can get regular access to the food we produce. Know that there are thousands of us small scale producers in this together and together we can make a vital difference.
In solidarity and talk soon,
The Landworkers’ Alliance