The Covid-19 crisis has created huge change in our food system, and many farmers are facing huge changes in their business through shifting demand, changing routes to market and labour restrictions.
Here’s six ways you can support local farmers during the current situation:
1. Buy their produce
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, with demand rising for online sales, box schemes, CSAs and deliveries. However, restaurant trade and tourism reliant models are facing huge challenges as the hospitality industry shuts, and farms offering courses or training are forced to change their plans. As a result, many local farms are having to radically shift their model overnight. For some this may mean their income is lower or that price fluctuations can lead to less financial security.
Many farms are now offering contactless delivery schemes, so it’s a very safe way to receive food at this time.
Here’s some ways you can find local farms:
- Check out the CSA Network website for details of local Community Supported Agriculture projects
- Look at the Pasture Fed Livestock Association for a list of PFLA certified livestock farms
- Farms to Feed Us have put together a public database of farms offering delivery
- In cities, look out for local initiatives that are popping up like Bristol Food Union and existing multi-farm delivery services like Fresh-Range and Farm Drop.
- Have a google! Type in your location or region, the word farm, and words like Box Scheme, Community Supported Agriculture or home delivery. You might be surprised what is available.
2. Be understanding
It’s a challenging time in farming at the moment, especially in horticulture. The next few months are known as the ‘hungry gap’ because it represents the time when there is little fresh produce available – most of the winter produce has been harvested, but it is still too early in the season for much to be growing yet. A lot of box schemes traditionally buy in at this time of the year to help add variety, but we don’t yet know how the imports of produce may be affected over the coming months, so try to be flexible about what produce you receive. Also, try and be understanding with delays and interruptions. Many farmers are coping with a huge increase in demand and will be juggling staffing issues and distribution challenges over the weeks ahead.
3. Ask what support your local farmers need
If you know a local farmer, why not ask if they need any support. We’ve been inundated by requests from people to start volunteering on farms working in the fields – for many farms this may not be an option due to health and safety, but there are other ways you can support them with your time.That might be putting yourself forward as a backup delivery driver in case of staff sickness, helping them process admin, or manning their social media while you’re stuck at home. It’s a busy time of year for market gardeners, with a lot to get done to get the ground prepared and seeds sown, so if you can help with any other aspect, they may well be grateful.
4. Sign our petition
We’re calling on the Government to provide an emergency package of support to farmers, including access to £10k grants for farmers facing hardship, support in transitioning supply chains and reaching vulnerable people, and support for new entrants to get onto the land.
You can sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/LandArmySupport
5. Donate to our Solidarity Pot
In these unprecedented times we want to build resources for mutual aid, and so we’re launching a Solidarity Pot to support our members facing difficult circumstances through loans of up to £500. We are using income from membership, merchandise and events to create this fund – it’s not a huge amount of money (up to £10,000 to begin with) but we hope that it can help, and you can donate to the fund here.
The purpose of our Solidarity Pot is to help members bridge an urgent gap and to respond quickly to changing circumstances. The two priorities are:
- Cover for staff sickness (including for the duration of self-isolation) or for staff who need to take care leave, especially where workers are self-employed and have a time lag in applying for Universal Credit or Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- Capital costs for: equipment to adapt business for hygiene, health and safety requirements; investments necessary to respond to changes in markets; or assist in getting produce to those most in need.
6. Become a supporter member or donate to the Landworkers’ Alliance
You don’t have to be a farmer or landworker to recognise that small to medium scale agroecological farms and land management are crucial to the sustainability of our environment and food system. Whilst the Landworkers’ Alliance is a union representing farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers, we invite everyone to join the LWA and be part of our work.
By supporting our work you’ll be adding your voice to the movement and bringing more power to our messages. There’s never been a more important time to protect and support our small and medium scale farms, and your support means we’ll be able to continue lobbying and campaigning for the issues that matter.
Benefits of supporter membership include:
- Regular updates with our news, events, trainings and more
- Exclusive or reduced price access to LWA courses and events on agroecology, political change and movement building
- Opportunities to participate in lobbying, campaigning and marches
- The knowledge that your money is going directly towards building a future where everybody can access local, healthy, affordable food, fuel and fibre from producers they can trust
If you want to support our work but don’t want to join as a supporter member, you can still make a one off donation through our website.