'Student Land Army' needed to help Lincolnshire growers after the effects of COVID-19
A call has gone out to students across the county to help ‘pick for Britain’ and support the area’s farming and horticultural industry, following the impact of COVID-19.
The Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is promoting a new ‘Student Land Army’ scheme.
It wants to hear from sixth-formers and students at universities and colleges across the county.
Chair of the Food Board at the LEP, Sarah Louise Fairburn, said: “The food sector in Greater Lincolnshire employs 56,000 people, produces a quarter of the country’s vegetables and is nationally important in keeping our nation fed.
“Because of travel restrictions put in place to combat the coronavirus, our farms are struggling to recruit the workers needed to bring in the harvest this year.
“A Student Land Army can have a significant impact on the national effort to overcome the pandemic emergency and will give students a chance to earn an income while they’re not studying.
“That’s why we’re encouraging students to tell their friends about the campaign and asking them to sign up to the Student Land Army today.”
Chair of the South Holland National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Chris Carter, praised the scheme, but was keen to see how it would work.
“It is a great idea if it actually works,” he said. “The Office of National Statistics reports that 80,000 casual workers are needed in the UK. That is a lot.
“If we could get young people to come along and help, it is great for their mental health as well. I think it is a tremendously good idea if people want to do it. I commend the idea, I just hope it happens.”
Sue Lamb, of Lamb’s Flowers in Pinchbeck, said she also thought it was a ‘great idea’ but would be interested to see how it was executed.
“Ours are all indoor flowers, though we pack some outdoor, so our workforce is pretty static,” she said. “The people who are more affected are those cropping outdoor flowers on mass."
And she added that a Government trial scheme, lobbied for by the NFU, to bring 10,000 people into the industry would never have been enough. The scheme was set up to combat a shortfall of workers, mainly migrant workers, following new immigration rules.
"If the virus has done anything it does show the volume of people that are needed," she added.
"We have repeatedly said this was not enough. People think the industry is far more advanced than it is. There is a long way to go. This virus has shaken the confidence of growers and there is a lot of healing to do."