Why won’t Brits pick vegetables for £30 an hour?

Muddyroads

Member
Location
Devon
I don't start till late July.

It is an issue for me that plant raisers can be a bit arrogrant & put batches of caulie together, ie I odered 2 vairities of caulie for planting 20/o6/21 & 01/07/21. They all turned up on 01/07/21 already too big & just one vareity. So I was left buying expensive caulie at the top of the market & a week later had a glut. Propgator blamed brexit & Corvid, I accept they are having a tougth time.
A steep learning curve for us, only our second year growing.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
Why bother supporting a business that needs cheap imported slaves to survive when food can be cheaply imported from the rest of the world?
The UK isn't self sufficient now so what would it matter if farmers like @Lowland1 grew more veg for the country?
The UK could concentrate on producing things that didn't require lots of manual labour, which is what the big combinable farms and livestock units do now.
Smaller growers with more modest businesses could carry on growing for farm shops and farmers markets, just leave the supermarket contracts to overseas companies with access to labour.
The majority of the UK veg market is only lining the pockets of a few big farming companies, so let them fall over and start again.
I kind of agree with this. It was the actions of these self same large cut throat firms that put smaller family firms out of business. Nobody bothered much about that. These large cut throat firms are now squealing that they can't compete with imported produce due to lack of cheap labour. Well poor them. They know how it feels then to be put of business by a more ruthless competitor. There is always a bigger rat. If the supermarkets come to rely on imports and these fail for some reason then I won't be losing any sleep for them either. Would serve them right and their mercenary penny pinching customers who couldn't give one about the producers.
 

Cowabunga

Member
Location
Ceredigion,Wales
Fair enough, we all choose what suits us best. However, last year the veg enterprise was our most profitable, so far this year it’s our worst primarily due to the weather. I’d rather spread my risks and review over a longer period of time. Our first priority has to be paying the rent.
Yes, of course you must take a medium to long term view. Thing is though that many farmers just continue to accept that they work for less than the cost of production from one year to the next or even one decade to the next, being subsidised by not just the government subsidy where applicable, but by other enterprises and even by their wife's wages or the fact that their family work for peanuts if that.
 

Hilly

Member
Yes, of course you must take a medium to long term view. Thing is though that many farmers just continue to accept that they work for less than the cost of production from one year to the next or even one decade to the next, being subsidised by not just the government subsidy where applicable, but by other enterprises and even by their wife's wages or the fact that their family work for peanuts if that.
what else can they do tho , it’s a vicious circle really .
 

Lincoln75

Member
Its worked well for centuries.
Lots of kids from big farms are not interested
They just want to cash it in
Did it really work well? for who? kids forced to work on fathers farm with no other option as no one travelled further than their village and knew no different ,yes youngsters of today want more and why not if its out there ? young people wanting a better life than their parents is how civilisation has evolved otherwise we`d still be living in caves .
 

tullah

Member
Location
Linconshire
Did it really work well? for who? kids forced to work on fathers farm with no other option as no one travelled further than their village and knew no different ,yes youngsters of today want more and why not if its out there ? young people wanting a better life than their parents is how civilisation has evolved otherwise we`d still be living in caves .
But life is suddenly turning full circle.
 

glasshouse

Member
Location
lothians
Did it really work well? for who? kids forced to work on fathers farm with no other option as no one travelled further than their village and knew no different ,yes youngsters of today want more and why not if its out there ? young people wanting a better life than their parents is how civilisation has evolved otherwise we`d still be living in caves .
It created a work ethic.
Nothing like knowing your survival hinges on getting a crop harvested successfully.
Loads of folk want to get into farming, bring their kids up outdoors, but the opportunities are scarce with dyson etc buying it all
 

Muddyroads

Member
Location
Devon
But life is suddenly turning full circle.
These are my thoughts too. Big growers need large numbers of staff working long hard hours for 5-6 days a week.
We are only a small grower and couldn’t get those sort of staff even if we wanted to.
What we can get though are local people who’ve are happy to do 3-4 hours per day, typically 3-4 days per week. We therefore grow a range of crops with a spread of harvesting dates.
If you go back 30-40 years, isn’t this how things were then?
 

Cowabunga

Member
Location
Ceredigion,Wales
what else can they do tho , it’s a vicious circle really .
It is only a vicious circle because they don't do something about it. The fact that farm enterprises that have survived so far and are thriving tend to be ever bigger and more efficient shows that many generations of farmers have done and are doing something about it, if only when they are forced to by age or a family that throws in the towel. Otherwise they change their management and actually make it pay.
Far too many are stuck in a rut where they can't pay their bills on time and constantly worry about their financial situation without actually doing something proactive about it. You really can't tell from the outside which these businesses are but their creditors have a better clue than most, believe me. Every farm [and other] business has different circumstances and the size of the boy's toys is certainly not a good indication of a viable business.
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
I finished in industry when I was 35 and returned to full time farming as the old folks were retiring or doing less. One of the things I reintroduced was small scale potato production and continued with it for 10 years or so. I actually found it one of the more enjoyable and profitable parts of the business. It was 30 tons of roadside bagged sale per annum off just over an acre of land. No other acre on the farm was anything like as profitable. We picked the potatoes behind a hoover and spent the winter grading and selling them. Grading maybe for a day a week then it was semi self service sales. We only stopped when the old folks passed away or left the site. It needed 24/7 presence to attend to the sales/replenish the stall, make sure we werent being robbed etc. Wasn't particularly arduous just needed somebody to be here in the yard. I always regretted selling the kit but couldn't realistically carry on with it on my own and have no kids so that was that. But for a taste of real soil to customer production all under your all control it was actually very satisfying. I even built a small scale washing and drying line which produced a quality washed, dried and bagged potato. You just don't get that buzz of direct retail sale with grain and other commodities.
 

Hilly

Member
I finished in industry when I was 35 and returned to full time farming as the old folks were retiring or doing less. One of the things I reintroduced was small scale potato production and continued with it for 10 years or so. I actually found it one of the more enjoyable and profitable parts of the business. It was 30 tons of roadside bagged sale per annum off just over an acre of land. No other acre on the farm was anything like as profitable. We picked the potatoes behind a hoover and spent the winter grading and selling them. Grading maybe for a day a week then it was semi self service sales. We only stopped when the old folks passed away or left the site. It needed 24/7 presence to attend to the sales/replenish the stall, make sure we werent being robbed etc. Wasn't particularly arduous just needed somebody to be here in the yard. I always regretted selling the kit but couldn't realistically carry on with it on my own and have no kids so that was that. But for a taste of real soil to customer production all under your all control it was actually very satisfying. I even built a small scale washing and drying line which produced a quality washed, dried and bagged potato. You just don't get that buzz of direct retail sale with grain and other commodities.
You could have a vending machine now ?
 

Hilly

Member
It is only a vicious circle because they don't do something about it. The fact that farm enterprises that have survived so far and are thriving tend to be ever bigger and more efficient shows that many generations of farmers have done and are doing something about it, if only when they are forced to by age or a family that throws in the towel. Otherwise they change their management and actually make it pay.
Far too many are stuck in a rut where they can't pay their bills on time and constantly worry about their financial situation without actually doing something proactive about it. You really can't tell from the outside which these businesses are but their creditors have a better clue than most, believe me. Every farm [and other] business has different circumstances and the size of the boy's toys is certainly not a good indication of a viable business.
I agree with you, I’d say in general the big toy men will be the poorest as they have spent it ! Probably before they made it as well . Plenty farming away quietly with ordinary gear etc etc will be doing quite nice for themselves and not get much attention because they don’t have all the big gear
 

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
Some of it comes down to hard work as well. It's easy to say well that enterprise is too much like hard work, or that one is too much hassle, but by and large I have found that hard work and hassle is what brings in the biggest cheques. You can make it easy. You might choose to do that. But don't expect the returns to be as good, though I don't blame folk for opting for an easier life and smaller returns as they get older or suffer ill health. We have done that at various times here. No gain without some pain.
 

Muddyroads

Member
Location
Devon
The other thing to consider is the way in which different enterprises interact, not just how stand alone profitable they are.
We have a suckler herd. In itself it doesn’t show much of a financial return, but what it does do is provide some very useful manure to go under our organic veg. If that manure increases our leek yield by 1-2 tonnes per acre, that’s a considerable difference to our bottom line. Not only that, but our soil organic matter improves along with the carbon percentage.
Best of all it means I can have a wry smile to myself when a vegan spouts off about how righteous they are by eating our produce! 😁
 

Lowland1

Member
Mixed Farmer
Why bother supporting a business that needs cheap imported slaves to survive when food can be cheaply imported from the rest of the world?
The UK isn't self sufficient now so what would it matter if farmers like @Lowland1 grew more veg for the country?
The UK could concentrate on producing things that didn't require lots of manual labour, which is what the big combinable farms and livestock units do now.
Smaller growers with more modest businesses could carry on growing for farm shops and farmers markets, just leave the supermarket contracts to overseas companies with access to labour.
The majority of the UK veg market is only lining the pockets of a few big farming companies, so let them fall over and start again.
Quite frankly i'd be happy to put everything into something I could combine. It's six and a half days a week 7 am to 7 pm for 52 weeks of the year. The workers only do six days and whilst they do get 3 or 4 times the local minimum wage if there was a Starbucks or an Amazon warehouse to work in I'm sure they'd be off in a shot. It's a global economy you can't put the genie back in the bottle. The minimum wage in Bulgaria is about £2.50 an hour so when there was frèe movement of labour then why not move to the UK and get four times as much. I'm an economic migrant. America ( north and south) Australia and New Zealand are full of economic migrants millions of people throughout the world have improved their lives by moving and doing jobs others won't or can't do. If the UK hasn't got the numbers of workers they need they have options however I notice they haven't mentioned putting the army into the vegetable fields.
 

kiwi pom

Member
Location
canterbury NZ
Quite frankly i'd be happy to put everything into something I could combine. It's six and a half days a week 7 am to 7 pm for 52 weeks of the year. The workers only do six days and whilst they do get 3 or 4 times the local minimum wage if there was a Starbucks or an Amazon warehouse to work in I'm sure they'd be off in a shot. It's a global economy you can't put the genie back in the bottle. The minimum wage in Bulgaria is about £2.50 an hour so when there was frèe movement of labour then why not move to the UK and get four times as much. I'm an economic migrant. America ( north and south) Australia and New Zealand are full of economic migrants millions of people throughout the world have improved their lives by moving and doing jobs others won't or can't do. If the UK hasn't got the numbers of workers they need they have options however I notice they haven't mentioned putting the army into the vegetable fields.
I agree with you, I shifted round for work that locals wouldn't do too, it was just driving for contractors instead of manual work.
I don't think its a particularly good business model to rely on cheap labour though. For those that get to make a better life for themselves by working for higher wages than they could at home its great, but as you say as soon as they get a better offer they're off.
I made good money driving in the US, took a bit of a hiding wage wise when I came here but it got me in the door and eventually I got a much better paying job.
Having the borders shut here due to Covid has been a bit of a shock for those relying on foreign workers.
 

Lowland1

Member
Mixed Farmer
I agree with you, I shifted round for work that locals wouldn't do too, it was just driving for contractors instead of manual work.
I don't think its a particularly good business model to rely on cheap labour though. For those that get to make a better life for themselves by working for higher wages than they could at home its great, but as you say as soon as they get a better offer they're off.
I made good money driving in the US, took a bit of a hiding wage wise when I came here but it got me in the door and eventually I got a much better paying job.
Having the borders shut here due to Covid has been a bit of a shock for those relying on foreign workers.
My wife’s great grandparents came from India to Kenya in 1897 from Goa and the Punjab. The Goans were Christians and classed a bit higher than the others.The Punjabis were brought as indentured labourers not quite slaves but not far off. Both great grandfathers received MBEs for service to the empire. My wife is the only one left in Africa all the rest are scattered throughout the world none of them for sure are labouring or clerking for a living. ( except for my wife).
There are no slaves in the UK and if people don’t want to work in the fields it’s really their choice if people are comfortable they aren’t going to do the hard jobs. Those people will come from places where life isn’t so easy.
 

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