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    COVID Diaries: Grace is picking for Britain!

    18 May 2020

    Students across the disciplines are using their free time to help out those in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether sewing face masks, working in care homes, or delivering vital PPE, we’re proud of all the amazing things our students are up to.

    Grace Leslie is a first year BSc (Hons) Agri-food Marketing wih Business student who is going to be taking on a new challenge to support the agricultural industry through lockdown: fruit picking. As something new to her, Grace shares her inspiration for undertaking the role and how in her free time she is keeping busy despite isolating at home:

    Studying Agri-food Marketing with Business at Harper has given me an understanding and interest in the food production supply chain. Earlier in the year, a fresh produce lecture got me engaged with this side of agriculture; it’s been very different from the typical dairy and sheep industries I’m used to.

    Due to recent circumstances and lack of fruit picking staff in the UK, I applied for a picking role to get a first-hand insight into the industry. Interestingly, data shows that in 2018 the UK was only 16.7% self-sufficient in fresh fruit production. Yet, we still require a picking team of 70-90,000 people to pick fresh fruit and veg in the UK. I wanted to be able to help this cause.

    The Pick for Britain campaign has been set up to help producers advertise their available jobs. I used this as a starting point and it was a huge eye-opener as to just how many fresh produce growers there are in the UK. 

    I have been lucky enough to be selected from thousands of applicants, I have been recruited to pick strawberries, raspberries and cherries at a farm located in Staffordshire. Starting a picking job will be different to the hospitality jobs I am used to but I look forward to joining the land army and seeing the farming community from a different perspective.

    I hope this will help me gain a better understanding of the industry; prepare me for my second year of studies, and for future placement opportunities.

    Now back home, exams and assignments are still keeping me busy. I have also started a health & safety course to enhance my CV and prepare me for the workplace. On the farm, lambing is over, so there isn’t much sheep work to keep me busy during lockdown. Of course, we have a few cade lambs which require feeding and lots of cuddles!

    In my free time I’ve started baking again - something I loved to do on the weekends before going to university. It’s great to have time to take this hobby up again! I’ve also been keeping up to date with the members in my Young Farmers club digitally. Committee meetings have been held over Zoom and the club has been following stock judging competitions through Facebook and doing Instagram takeovers to chat about university, lockdown, and YFC more generally. It’s keeping us all motivated and connected.

    Like everyone at Harper I am gutted the year has ended the way it has! I have had a fab first year at Harper, made some lovely friends and really enjoyed the course. I’m looking forward to starting year two after a busy summer picking fruit!



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