Grays farm PYO

On Thursday 2nd April 2020, a group of 20 PYO members of the Farm Retail Association got together via web call to discuss the potential hurdles they may need to overcome in light of Coronavirus. Please see notes from that call below, should any fellow PYO operators find this useful. We intend to catch up again as and when relevant. If you’d like to be part of the next discussion, please contact jenny@farmretailassociation.co.uk.

Notes from call

Opening in April/May could be tricky.

Come June it is hoped that social distancing measures will have been lessened and people will be allowed out. May be more sensible to plan for a June opening if you are able to.

If schools are off early and people desperate to get out and about (when distancing measures have been lifted) this is actually a huge opportunity for us.

Don’t think it’s the possible contamination of fruit from people touching and moving on that’s the problem (this will be happening in supermarkets), it’s the social distancing. Normal @ Lotmead – as soon as people are allowed back into parks, I think that’s our safe cue to open

Whilst social distancing is in place, any PYO’s planning to open would need to ensure the visit is seen as accessing key food provisions and not a leisure activity. Families should not be lingering. Suggest:

  • One way system so people don’t cross paths
  • People can enter as singles or pairs – no groups
  • Ticketing to keep numbers to a minimum for social distancing (based on size of your plot and ensuring plenty of space between people)
  • Hand washing at entrance and exits
  • Handouts about washing fruit/veg before eating? Just as a precaution and so you are seen to be taking extra measures
  • Queuing system (distanced) outside where needed – do not encourage people gathering in confined spaces
  • Online minimum payment ahead of booking. Reimbursed against full spend at checkout
  • Scan and weigh system – is there a way for this to be separate from your shop to keep distancing in place?

Ticketing

  • Digi-tickets – Jenny getting details and will provide info. Rees Keene from Over farm uses them and recommends. FRA also use them and have a partnership.
  • Merlin – Rob uses for pumpkin festival and finds easy to use and reasonably priced
  • Eventbrite also suggested but can be clunky
  • Jenny to share further info or contact her at jenny@farmretailassociation.co.uk for suggested platforms/software.
  • Care and due diligence – we are putting ticketing in place to look after YOU – your ticket is your way to know you will be socially distanced.

Taking distanced payments

  • Good that contactless has been raised to £45.
  • Some businesses are putting their contactless payment machine on a 2m stick and reaching this out to customers. Sounds excessive but it works and is appreciated!

Planning for overflow produce if you cannot open

John Sinclair suggests now is a good time to reach out to local businesses who might need your fruit and may buy some bulk produce from you.

  • Selling outside your own shop (if you have one)
  • Farm Shops that don’t have their own crop.
  • Local independent stores.
  • Is it worth considering roadside stalls – old school but good way to sell and may make a comeback this summer.

Staffing/pickers

If you have stock that would normally be picked by visitors, that you need to pick to sell, a few suggestions were mentioned:

  • You CANNOT employ furloughed staff unless they are volunteering for you. See helpful guidelines here (thanks to Kerry @ Bourne Valley PYO).
  • Many people are bored at home and looking to volunteer. Put a call out on Facebook and among your customers, and make it clear that it is voluntary and that welfare will be protected etc (they won’t be in large groups, there will be good hygiene practice etc).
  • Many people have been made redundant and may be looking for local jobs.
  • John Sinclair has been receiving lots of emails from locals wanting to help if they can. He has been keeping on file for now, but has a willing ‘army’ of volunteers when needed if necessary.
  • Matt Adrian mentioned that they often use uni students., This year especially there is an opportunity as many of them who are planning gap year trips are much less likely to be able to go. Matt is currently planning for strawberries in May. Students are hard workers. Going to train a few up to be really good pickers and lead teams.
  • Many students go to Oz working fruit farms. Recreate that experience for them here – a summer picking camp. Campsite, good facilities, Friday drinks, BBQs – good opportunity to get a large low-cost team working for you. Make it like a working holiday abroad.
  • The general rule is that you have to do 88 days of farm work to be able to apply for a second working holiday visa (for those looking to go back travelling after having done it once).This can come in handy for us at this time, see more info here.

Lobbying

Contacting George Eustice was discussed. General consensus that to draw attention to ourselves may lead to us getting the answer we DON’T want. Plus government are VERY busy – it would take a lot of shouting to get anywhere, and we don’t know that the outcome would be beneficial to us. Follow Government guidelines sensibly and with common sense.

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