Farming in times of COVID-19: reshaping the workforce and redefining distribution

Farming in times of COVID-19: reshaping the workforce and redefining distribution

By
Laura Robinson
March 31, 2020

Farming in times of COVID-19: reshaping the workforce and redefining distribution

Retailers are working flat out to keep shelves stocked. And restaurants are pivoting to takeaway and delivery to keep themselves afloat. But what about farmers - the actors at the very start of the food value chain, without whom none of the rest would be possible?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge shifts in consumption patterns. Staple food products have been flying off the shelves. Whereas other markets – like meat, wine and “luxury” fruit that supply the restaurant industry or feature in family celebrations - have faced a drop in demand.

But farming works to nature’s timescales. So farmers are facing the dual challenge of ensuring that crops growing now can still be harvested and distributed, while considering what mix of products will serve them best in the months to come.  

Addressing potential labour shortages

In April, farmers are usually gearing up to welcome seasonal migrant workers to lend them a hand with early harvest and spring crop planting. But this year, border restrictions and a sharp drop in travel options have made it nigh on impossible for many to make this journey. Experts anticipate that vegetable, fruit and wine producers will be most impacted by these potential labour shortages.

Governments and sector leaders in Switzerland, France and the UK have therefore been looking to recruit local workers to fill this gap. A number of platforms have been launched to encourage the unemployed – including those who have recently lost their jobs in other parts of the food sector – to apply for vacancies.

While over 40,000 jobseekers submitted their applications in the first twenty four hours of the appeal in France, around 200,000 workers will be needed over the next three months. Farmers also stressed that they need workers who can provide them with longer term support, including a period of training to ensure that quality standards are met.

Activating alternative distribution channels

While demand from retailers remains high, farmers who typically sold via markets or to the food service industry are experimenting with new distribution channels.

With supermarket home delivery slots booked up weeks in advance, some farmers are promoting their farm shops as an alternative for local communities. Market organisers have also been working with their stallholders to create online shops, so customers can order in advance and collect their groceries at a coronavirus-compliant pick-up point.

In the UK, fresh produce delivery companies like Abel & Cole and Riverford have been inundated with orders and provide alternative delivery options for farms that have surplus produce. In Switzerland, local craft beer pioneer, Dr Gabs, has also developed partnerships with local producers and will deliver fruit, vegetables, meat and milk alongside their beer, direct to customers’ doorsteps.  

#Wewillfeedyou: reconnecting with the face of food

Last week, young farmers in France launched a social media campaign - #onvousnourrit (#wewillfeedyou) – reminding consumers that they are the faces behind the food on our plates. They have the means to continue to feed the nation – but they need the support of the government, other businesses and local communities to do so.

So, let’s not let panic buying become the defining memory of this unprecedented period. Let’s hope that one of its positive legacies will be that consumers reconnect with where their food comes from and rise to the challenge of supporting local producers, throughout lockdown and beyond.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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Farming in times of COVID-19: reshaping the workforce and redefining distribution

Retailers are working flat out to keep shelves stocked. And restaurants are pivoting to takeaway and delivery to keep themselves afloat. But what about farmers - the actors at the very start of the food value chain, without whom none of the rest would be possible?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge shifts in consumption patterns. Staple food products have been flying off the shelves. Whereas other markets – like meat, wine and “luxury” fruit that supply the restaurant industry or feature in family celebrations - have faced a drop in demand.

But farming works to nature’s timescales. So farmers are facing the dual challenge of ensuring that crops growing now can still be harvested and distributed, while considering what mix of products will serve them best in the months to come.  

Addressing potential labour shortages

In April, farmers are usually gearing up to welcome seasonal migrant workers to lend them a hand with early harvest and spring crop planting. But this year, border restrictions and a sharp drop in travel options have made it nigh on impossible for many to make this journey. Experts anticipate that vegetable, fruit and wine producers will be most impacted by these potential labour shortages.

Governments and sector leaders in Switzerland, France and the UK have therefore been looking to recruit local workers to fill this gap. A number of platforms have been launched to encourage the unemployed – including those who have recently lost their jobs in other parts of the food sector – to apply for vacancies.

While over 40,000 jobseekers submitted their applications in the first twenty four hours of the appeal in France, around 200,000 workers will be needed over the next three months. Farmers also stressed that they need workers who can provide them with longer term support, including a period of training to ensure that quality standards are met.

Activating alternative distribution channels

While demand from retailers remains high, farmers who typically sold via markets or to the food service industry are experimenting with new distribution channels.

With supermarket home delivery slots booked up weeks in advance, some farmers are promoting their farm shops as an alternative for local communities. Market organisers have also been working with their stallholders to create online shops, so customers can order in advance and collect their groceries at a coronavirus-compliant pick-up point.

In the UK, fresh produce delivery companies like Abel & Cole and Riverford have been inundated with orders and provide alternative delivery options for farms that have surplus produce. In Switzerland, local craft beer pioneer, Dr Gabs, has also developed partnerships with local producers and will deliver fruit, vegetables, meat and milk alongside their beer, direct to customers’ doorsteps.  

#Wewillfeedyou: reconnecting with the face of food

Last week, young farmers in France launched a social media campaign - #onvousnourrit (#wewillfeedyou) – reminding consumers that they are the faces behind the food on our plates. They have the means to continue to feed the nation – but they need the support of the government, other businesses and local communities to do so.

So, let’s not let panic buying become the defining memory of this unprecedented period. Let’s hope that one of its positive legacies will be that consumers reconnect with where their food comes from and rise to the challenge of supporting local producers, throughout lockdown and beyond.

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Farming in times of COVID-19: reshaping the workforce and redefining distribution

Retailers are working flat out to keep shelves stocked. And restaurants are pivoting to takeaway and delivery to keep themselves afloat. But what about farmers - the actors at the very start of the food value chain, without whom none of the rest would be possible?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge shifts in consumption patterns. Staple food products have been flying off the shelves. Whereas other markets – like meat, wine and “luxury” fruit that supply the restaurant industry or feature in family celebrations - have faced a drop in demand.

But farming works to nature’s timescales. So farmers are facing the dual challenge of ensuring that crops growing now can still be harvested and distributed, while considering what mix of products will serve them best in the months to come.  

Addressing potential labour shortages

In April, farmers are usually gearing up to welcome seasonal migrant workers to lend them a hand with early harvest and spring crop planting. But this year, border restrictions and a sharp drop in travel options have made it nigh on impossible for many to make this journey. Experts anticipate that vegetable, fruit and wine producers will be most impacted by these potential labour shortages.

Governments and sector leaders in Switzerland, France and the UK have therefore been looking to recruit local workers to fill this gap. A number of platforms have been launched to encourage the unemployed – including those who have recently lost their jobs in other parts of the food sector – to apply for vacancies.

While over 40,000 jobseekers submitted their applications in the first twenty four hours of the appeal in France, around 200,000 workers will be needed over the next three months. Farmers also stressed that they need workers who can provide them with longer term support, including a period of training to ensure that quality standards are met.

Activating alternative distribution channels

While demand from retailers remains high, farmers who typically sold via markets or to the food service industry are experimenting with new distribution channels.

With supermarket home delivery slots booked up weeks in advance, some farmers are promoting their farm shops as an alternative for local communities. Market organisers have also been working with their stallholders to create online shops, so customers can order in advance and collect their groceries at a coronavirus-compliant pick-up point.

In the UK, fresh produce delivery companies like Abel & Cole and Riverford have been inundated with orders and provide alternative delivery options for farms that have surplus produce. In Switzerland, local craft beer pioneer, Dr Gabs, has also developed partnerships with local producers and will deliver fruit, vegetables, meat and milk alongside their beer, direct to customers’ doorsteps.  

#Wewillfeedyou: reconnecting with the face of food

Last week, young farmers in France launched a social media campaign - #onvousnourrit (#wewillfeedyou) – reminding consumers that they are the faces behind the food on our plates. They have the means to continue to feed the nation – but they need the support of the government, other businesses and local communities to do so.

So, let’s not let panic buying become the defining memory of this unprecedented period. Let’s hope that one of its positive legacies will be that consumers reconnect with where their food comes from and rise to the challenge of supporting local producers, throughout lockdown and beyond.

Farming in times of COVID-19: reshaping the workforce and redefining distribution

Retailers are working flat out to keep shelves stocked. And restaurants are pivoting to takeaway and delivery to keep themselves afloat. But what about farmers - the actors at the very start of the food value chain, without whom none of the rest would be possible?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge shifts in consumption patterns. Staple food products have been flying off the shelves. Whereas other markets – like meat, wine and “luxury” fruit that supply the restaurant industry or feature in family celebrations - have faced a drop in demand.

But farming works to nature’s timescales. So farmers are facing the dual challenge of ensuring that crops growing now can still be harvested and distributed, while considering what mix of products will serve them best in the months to come.  

Addressing potential labour shortages

In April, farmers are usually gearing up to welcome seasonal migrant workers to lend them a hand with early harvest and spring crop planting. But this year, border restrictions and a sharp drop in travel options have made it nigh on impossible for many to make this journey. Experts anticipate that vegetable, fruit and wine producers will be most impacted by these potential labour shortages.

Governments and sector leaders in Switzerland, France and the UK have therefore been looking to recruit local workers to fill this gap. A number of platforms have been launched to encourage the unemployed – including those who have recently lost their jobs in other parts of the food sector – to apply for vacancies.

While over 40,000 jobseekers submitted their applications in the first twenty four hours of the appeal in France, around 200,000 workers will be needed over the next three months. Farmers also stressed that they need workers who can provide them with longer term support, including a period of training to ensure that quality standards are met.

Activating alternative distribution channels

While demand from retailers remains high, farmers who typically sold via markets or to the food service industry are experimenting with new distribution channels.

With supermarket home delivery slots booked up weeks in advance, some farmers are promoting their farm shops as an alternative for local communities. Market organisers have also been working with their stallholders to create online shops, so customers can order in advance and collect their groceries at a coronavirus-compliant pick-up point.

In the UK, fresh produce delivery companies like Abel & Cole and Riverford have been inundated with orders and provide alternative delivery options for farms that have surplus produce. In Switzerland, local craft beer pioneer, Dr Gabs, has also developed partnerships with local producers and will deliver fruit, vegetables, meat and milk alongside their beer, direct to customers’ doorsteps.  

#Wewillfeedyou: reconnecting with the face of food

Last week, young farmers in France launched a social media campaign - #onvousnourrit (#wewillfeedyou) – reminding consumers that they are the faces behind the food on our plates. They have the means to continue to feed the nation – but they need the support of the government, other businesses and local communities to do so.

So, let’s not let panic buying become the defining memory of this unprecedented period. Let’s hope that one of its positive legacies will be that consumers reconnect with where their food comes from and rise to the challenge of supporting local producers, throughout lockdown and beyond.