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Could you start by telling us how the last few weeks have been for you?

We grow our own asparagus at South Brockwells Farm, so the season from late-April to mid-June is a really busy time at our farm even in a normal year. The new measures we have had to employ to ensure our staff and customers remain safe have certainly added to the madness of our family farm life.

What positive steps have you taken to get through the lockdown?

We have utilised close family and friends to help crop and prepare the asparagus for sale. Mixing has been minimised to keep our customers and staff/family safe. Child labour has featured highly, with home schooling taking the form of mental arithmetic in the farm shop!

Are there any innovations of which you are particularly proud?

We are particularly proud of our "Buy a bundle for the NHS” scheme. We have sent 300 bundles of asparagus to NHS staff at Sussex County Hospital Brighton, Uckfield Hospital, Princess Royal Hospital at Haywards Heath, and Martlets Hospice at Hove in recent weeks. The initiative started when Mr and Mrs Millar from Isfield, one of our self-isolating food box delivery customers asked to send some asparagus to Uckfield Hospital. We added 25% to their donation and the idea was born. It was really well received by the hospitals and customers alike. 

At the farm shop itself, we have served customers across the door. Arron, Chrissy's husband is a carpenter, so our fabulous handmade stable door has proven to be the perfect social distancing counter. We have also made sure our hilarious pigmy goats are on hand in the front paddock or grazing the lawn by the shop to keep our customers entertained while they wait their turn to be served.

How have your customers been supporting you during this time?

We have been delighted to see customers old and new at the farm shop and have delivered to those who are self-isolating or vulnerable. Several friends or long-standing customers have run village hubs where we deliver asparagus for the village and they sell it from their gate and deliver to the vulnerable. 

Are there any special measures you’ll be bringing in once you re-open again?

We really want people to enjoy their shopping experience with us in the midst of our working family farm. We are extra diligent with cleaning etc and ask customers to queue appropriately, but we hope to continue to operate as we have in the past - a personal service, just with a bit more anti bac!

Why is it so important that people ‘Stay Loyal to Local’ going forward?

Staying loyal to local will ensure consumers get the best quality produce, with a short or zero supply chain. It also helps to ensure purchases have the greatest nutritional value, having avoided hours of refrigeration and travel. Local producers usually employ local people, which is a huge benefit to the local community. 

What’s the best way that our community can do that for now?

Keep supporting each other and your local producers. 

Tags: farming asparagus farm shop Stay Loyal to Local campaign