A CLEAR message has gone out from grassroots farmers’ organisation, The Farmer Network, based in Penrith, to farmers struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whatever the challenge or the opportunity facing the farming community, the first reaction within the Farmer Network is always, ‘what can we do to help?’” said Adam Day, its managing director since 2015.

“Without a shadow of doubt, the wider effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be more significant than those experienced during and after foot and mouth 2001, but we must maintain home- grown food production.” added Mr Day.

At the outset of the pandemic, Farmer Network members were raising concerns about what would happen if key workers on the farm were unable to work.

The welfare of animals is clearly a priority along with the well-being of family and farm workers.

In response to this, and with funding support from Cumbria Covid-19 Response Fund administered by Cumbria Community Foundation, The Farmer Network team has created a wide-ranging support initiative to help the farming community.

The Farm Labour Emergency Support Scheme (FLESS) is now fully operational. Farmers needing emergency labour can link up with potential workers who are willing to go to the farm and ensure continued operation in a worse- case scenario.

“We’ve already had an excellent response from people offering their services if needed. They range from highly-skilled farmworkers to volunteers just wanting to help in any way they can.”

The Farmer Network is also encouraging farmers to make contact in order to discuss information about available funding schemes, preparing contingency plans, and any potential difficulties such as sourcing supplies or general worries or concerns.

Mr Day strongly suggested all farmers should visit the organisations website www.thefarmernetwork.co.uk to view the contingency plan template.

“We hope farmers will pick the phone up, talk to the team and make a plan for the worst, in the hope that it won’t be needed. Our message is clear: we are here to help.”

The Farmer Network, formed in 2006, can be contacted on 01768 868615. It is an independent, not for profit company which provides help and support to farmers and their businesses. It is using the social media hashtag #backingbritishfarmers.