What's it like to work on a German farm in lockdown?
During lockdown, around the world there has been a growing concern around migrant fruit and veg pickers not able to fly to the UK. In a bid to try and source UK workers #pickforbritain and #feedthenation campaigns were launched to attract people who were currently on furlough or struggling to find work during this pandemic to replace the usual migrant workers.
The prospect of working on a farm may appeal to a lot of us, it’s extra money while you’re unable to work and you’ll be working outside which is something we’ve all been craving in lockdown especially as the weather has picked up. Or would it be the last thing you'd want to do when you consider the supposed intensive labour, early hours and minimum wage.
This isn’t just happening in the UK, other European countries are struggling to recruit seasonal farm workers due to Covid19, to gain some insight I spoke to JayJay who’s currently living in Berlin and has started working temporarily on a farm for the season.
What farm are you working on/vegetables/fruit are you harvesting?
It is an organic farm which has potatoes, onions, grains, cows and buffalo! My job is just focused on picking weeds which are growing around onions, and also potatoes from one field which shouldn't be there but have sprung from previous harvests. As it is an organic farm, it means that there are no pesticides to kill the weeds and hence where my job comes in to pick them!
How did you get the job on a farm?
I applied on saisonarbeit-in-deutschland.de - a ‘seasonal work’ website in Germany. I sent my CV and short email to about 30 different farms and got replies from a few. I went for this one because it offered free accommodation and from the website it sounded like a nice place to work and the morals and treatment of the animals sounded really good. Now I have seen the buffalo in the fields next to the field I can say that the statements were in fact true and the lazy animals just sit under shade in trees all day or walk around the field eating hay haha.
Are there any safety precautions in place to protect from Covid-19?
The weed machine usually has 12 beds but 6 have been taken off so the teams are smaller and there is more space between each worker. There is a shift rotation (morning and afternoon) and before each shift we spray the bed with antibac. We live in the house with our team and there is a rota for spraying the surfaces and handles in the house – one person does it every day and signs a sheet.
What are your hours?
There are 2 shift rotations: Morning which currently is 05:30-13:30 with 30 min break, and afternoon which is 13:30-21:30 with 30 min break. This will extend to 05:00-13:30 and 13:30-22:00 from next week as the day has got longer.
How difficult is the work?
Super easy! In fact, when the weather has been nice some of us have started doing it on our knees instead of on the bed so that we get some movement in and don’t get too lazy! It is very chilled and I tend to listen to podcasts which helps to pass the time.
How does it feel to be working outside now?
I really love it! Sometimes I go on a short walk or run during the half hour break into the woods. There are no people around and very limited or no signal so it is quite refreshing.
Are you living on site, if so what's that like?
We are living in a cottage in a small town of 10,000 people a 20 min drive from the fields we rotate on. The farmer has lent us a white van which I have to drive the team in every day. It is a bit of a struggle to drive as sometimes overheats and smells like burning hahhaa.
Any memorable experiences since working on the farm?
2 days ago there was a ‘dust devil’ (micro tornado) which crossed the field! Also I have seen deer on a few occasions in the woods :)
Have you met many people?
I have met the people in my team who are originally from Cameroon and Iran and now live in Germany. Also the farmer, of course, and from a distance/briefly the team we rotate with.
How has this affected your personal life/state of mind?
In a good way! Whilst I am here I am detoxing (apart from toots on a cbd vape from time to time but I see that as a positive thing to do anyway 😊 ). I am generally eating clean and exercising more so I feel very stress free at the moment and very peaceful! I would really love to have a farm of sorts in the future!! Might buy a small allotment first though 😊
Have you worked on a farm over lockdown? Let us know how your experience compares!