A new campaign led by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society is aiming to celebrate and highlight the crucial role farmers are playing to keep the nation fed amid the worst public health crisis for a generation.
Farm To Fork is a new social media-led initiative to champion the region’s important agricultural sector during the coronavirus outbreak. It champions individual farmers and farm retail business across the county at a time when the nation is relying on a seamless supply chain to continually restock shop shelves.
Work on farms becomes busier at this time of the year. Springtime is peak lambing season and the more settled weather means farmers spend hours in tractor cabs to sow fields with crops. The campaign will highlight this exhaustive workload in what is a fresh attempt to explain to the public where and how the food we all rely on is being produced in Yorkshire.
It will also raise awareness of the innovative ways in which farm shops are safely meeting social distancing rules to remain open. By doing so, it will highlight opportunities for the public to access a ready supply of high-quality, fresh British food from local outlets that they may not have used regularly before or even considered as alternatives to supermarkets.
Nigel Pulling, chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said: “We want to do everything we can as a charity to continue to champion and support the farming community, and inform the public about what our farmers do, during these testing times.
“Farmers are not on the frontline of responding to the virus like our incredible nurses and doctors are. Nonetheless, they are key workers whose continuous endeavours day after day are meeting the demands of retailers and shoppers, who need a safe, high-quality and reliable supply of nutritious food.”
Among the farmers whose work is being celebrated by the Farm To Fork campaign are Christine and David Thompson near Helmsley. The couple are preparing to start lambing and to sow barley for beer production. They also have wheat crops in the ground that will be used to make loaves of bread.
Mrs Thompson said: “At the moment, we are lucky that our day to day work on the farm is largely unaffected by the current disruption that is affecting wider society. It means we can get on with our job and continue to contribute to a big industry-wide effort across the country to produce the food we all need to stay healthy.”
The farm retail sector has been quick to respond to new government rules to quell the spread of the virus. Fodder at the Great Yorkshire Showground has closed its café but the farm shop remains open to a limited number of shoppers at any one time. It is also offering food parcel collections, as well as home deliveries to those who are self-isolating.
Heather Parry, managing director of Fodder which sells produce from more than 430 local suppliers and whose profits help fund the charitable work of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said: “The shop is very much open for business and we have introduced a raft of measures to ensure our staff and customers are safe. This includes limiting the number of customers in the shop, social distancing, hand sanitisers, plastic screens at the tills, sterilizing baskets and trollies regularly and card payments only.
In this fast-moving situation, we are updating our website and our methods of working all the time. We introduced a new home delivery service for those who are self-isolating and we were flooded with orders before we started. Our delivery area is Harrogate and Knaresborough and we have teamed up with our super suppliers Delifresh who are offering home deliveries to those we can’t reach. We have also introduced a free click and collect service for customers who can pick up their shopping from the car park.”
In a similar vein, the Hullah family at Tancred Farm Shop in Whixley, between York and Harrogate, have adapted their own farm diversification retail business. Dean Hullah and his team, who are also supporting the Food To Fork campaign, are taking phone orders for food collections which can be picked up from a contactless collection point in front of the farmhouse.
The Yorkshire Agricultural Society hopes there will be a lasting impact from promoting farmers and farm retailers in this way.
Mr Pulling said: “With the support of the farming community, we want to raise awareness of the food our farmers produce throughout the year and to promote the farm retail sector at a time when farm shops are really rising to the challenge.
“It would be fantastic, if by doing so, some shoppers develop new, lasting habits of choosing British food at the shop shelves and supporting local businesses.”
Members of the farming community across Yorkshire are invited to support the campaign by submitting a simple photograph or video of themselves in action, whether on the farm or in their farm shop. They are also asked to offer a short explanation of what they are doing to produce food or make it available to the public.
Whether it is sowing crops, lambing or offering home deliveries or takeaway orders from farm shops, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society wants to champion the sector. To contribute to the Farm To Fork campaign, email your submissions to email@example.com.