Our campaign to encourage students and others to apply for jobs on the land has been a huge success.

Our campaign to encourage students and others to apply for jobs on the land and help bring in this year’s harvest has been a huge success.

Throughout May and June we’ve been running a #StudentLandArmy campaign across social media, signposting workers to the Pick for Britain website and supporting the national #FeedTheNation campaign.

Coronavirus travel restrictions meant that just before the start of harvest season around 80,000 extra seasonal workers were needed to work on UK farms.

In Greater Lincolnshire the shortfall was particularly acute: our food sector employs 56,000 people, produces 25% of the country's vegetables and is nationally important in food security to keep our nation fed.

Our campaign across Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram helped to raise awareness of the problem and encouraged many people to visit Pick for Britain and look for seasonal work.

The campaign was picked up across regional newspapers, magazines and websites and we also achieved coverage in Farmers Weekly, Farming UK, Land & Business magazine and the BBC News website.

Our Chair Pat Doody and Sarah Louise Fairburn, who chairs the LEP’s Food Board, gave a number of interviews on ITV Calendar, BBC Look North and BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

The national campaign was given a boost in May when HRH The Prince of Wales posted a video address on the Pick for Britain website endorsing the campaign and urging people to sign up for harvest duty.

One of the businesses featured on TV was Worldwide Fruit in Spalding. Neal Collishaw, the company’s Operations Director, commented: “What the campaign has done is provide us with that additional back up that we needed.

“Within 48 hours of us spreading the word that we needed students to come and work with us we had 30 applications. And the thing that has taken us aback and dispelled the myth is that they are really hard working.”

One farm and pick-your-own near the Lincolnshire coast has benefited from an influx of student workers.

David Pridgeon usually uses Lithuanian and Bulgarian workers to bring in the harvest on the 15-acre Willows Farm in Hogsthorpe, but this year he had to look for more local labour to pick his fruit.

One student who has been working on the farm is Lorna Bowser from Skegness, who had taken a year out after her A-levels before going to university. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown forced her to completely change her plans and she’s spent the summer so far picking fruit and working in the farm shop.

“I had a job organised but that had to be cancelled, so I messaged David and he said I could help with the picking,” said Lorna. “I'm enjoying being outside and having some routine.”

Alford Grammar School student Hannah Freeman would normally be working in hospitality on the coast during the summer – but this year she too has been working at Willows Farm.

“I've never done this before – my usual summer jobs have been working in a chip shop or as a barista,” she said.

“When I heard about the shortages of workers on farms I got in touch to see if they needed any help. I'm enjoying it but I never normally see the sun so I've been burning!”

Harvest is now in full swing in Lincolnshire and farms and food packers still need additional workers. The Pick for Britain website reports a “fantastic response” and says while many vacancies for the next few weeks are now filled, the harvest season continues all summer and links will regularly be updated as new roles become available.

Part of this article first appeared in the Skegness Standard newspaper. Photograph copyright Skegness Standard.