The British government wants you: To cut lettuce from the fields, pick berries from the bushes and load boxes of fresh produce into cold storage warehouses.
While many people hunker down at home, reloading the internet sites of grocery stores to secure a home delivery slot or dreading the socially distanced, masked visit to a supermarket, it’s easy to lose sight of the supply chain and where that food is coming from.
As Covid-19 cases surpass 170,000 in the United Kingdom, British farmers are facing spring cut off from the Eastern European migrant workers that make the harvest possible. But with thousands of Brits laid off or furloughed, the UK government now says its official policy is to try to get locals onto the fields.
“We estimate that probably only about a third of the migrant labor that would normally come to the UK is here,” George Eustice, the environment secretary and top British official on farming, said at press conference on Sunday. The government would work with farms to “encourage those millions of furloughed workers to in some cases consider taking a second job, helping get the harvest in in June.”
Back to basics. The “blitz spirit.” A nationwide effort to bind together wounds, not far off from the World War II campaign that carried the nation through the relentless German bombing campaign of 1940 and 1941.
Back breaking work
At the crack of dawn on a farm in Kent, southeast England on Monday, a group of six woman are dressed in an idiosyncratic mix of T-shirts and down jackets. Bent double at the waist, they cut lettuce after lettuce from the earth, trimming leaves and then packing them onto pallets.
Farm director Nick Ottewell, affable and full of nervous energy, looks on.