If you were looking for work when the lockdown began or have since lost your job, then you may be concerned about navigating the job market during these unprecedented times. Many sectors have slowed down on hiring or postponed hiring altogether for the foreseeable future.
However, the pandemic has created a shortage of farm labourers in many countries. These workers are responsible for picking and packing fruit and vegetables – so at the time of writing this, the demand for farm workers has never been greater.
As a result of the shortage, Concordia, HOPS, and Fruitful – three key ethical providers of farm labour in the UK – have launched a Feed the Nation Campaign, to encourage as many people as possible to apply for roles on UK farms. No matter where you live in the world, it’s very likely that local farms need extra hands.
If you’ve never thought about farm work before, then you may be wondering what exactly it entails and whether it could be an option for you. So, I’ve outlined what sort of roles are available, the pros and cons of working on a farm, and how the application process works.
The majority of farm roles involve picking and packing fruit and vegetables. Those with extra skills may also be able to take on roles that involve the use of heavy machinery.
Workers are usually given placements – which can last anywhere from between six weeks and six months – and will be offered accommodation. It’s completely up to you whether you decide to take the accommodation, and this will often depend on how far you will need to travel to reach the farm from home.
British Summer Fruits (the industry body representing 95% of all British grown berries) have created a handy map to show the location of berry farms across the country that need workers. It’s worth having a look to see which farms might be a convenient option for you!
It’s understandable that you may have concerns about the implications of going out to work during the pandemic. But Concordia and HOPS have confirmed that they are complying with the government’s social distancing measures and create safe working conditions for workers to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Farm workers will also be considered key workers, so will be free to travel to and from work with as little restriction as possible.
If you’re fed up of being stuck indoors, then farm work offers you the chance to get outside and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air – especially now that we’re heading into the summer months. It’s also a great way to stay active because the work is physical, and you’ll be on your feet for much of the day.
You’ll have the added benefit of feeling that you are giving something back to the community by helping to ensure that fruit and vegetables are still able to reach supermarket shelves.
Many people that have taken up farm work since the shortages began have also said that they’ve enjoyed being given the opportunity to try something a bit different!
Farm work requires early starts and long hours. It’s also physically demanding, so you’d need to be comfortable with the idea of being on your feet all day doing lots of bending, stretching, and lifting. Some see it as a chance to keep busy and get fit, whilst for others it can be quite overwhelming.
The application process is really straightforward. All you need to do is enter a few personal details into an application form on Concordia, HOPS, and Fruitful Alliance’s Ethical Labour portal.
Once Alliance receives your application, they will send you a link to their video interview platform, where you will be asked to record a short video. There’s no need to worry about this if it’s something you’ve never done before as you will receive clear guidance and instructions.
If your application is successful, you will be matched up with a farm based on your preferences. This information will arrive by email, and you will be given the option to accept or reject any offers to work at a given location (also via email).
Once you’ve accepted an offer to work at a farm, you will be given up to three weeks of paid training. You’ll receive at least the National Living Wage – or possible more depending on your role type and/or the amount of fruit or veggies you harvest (which is where your training comes in handy).
I understand that farm work isn’t for everyone, so if you’re still looking for work and you’re in need of some inspiration, then we have a detailed job ideas section on the Rest Less website.
It’s difficult to know exactly what the future of the UK job market will look like, but it can still be helpful to explore a few ideas in the meantime. Many people are using time at home to consider how they can go about making a career change when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Are you looking for a job? Would you consider applying for a farm role? If you are working on a farm already, what can you share about the experience? Please use the comment box below!