An Essex farming couple are keeping elderly and vulnerable people fed during the coronavirus lockdown – by using a tractor-trailer to deliver food to their doorsteps.
G & J Barron Farms, based at Pattocks Farm, Chappel, was asked by residents if it would open its farm shop – normally operating only at Christmas to sell turkeys – as the supermarkets were running short on supplies.
Arable and turkey farmers Ross and Sarah Barron considered the request but decided reopening the shop would risk spreading the virus to staff and locals, as it sits in the middle of the yard.
Instead, they decided to dust off their 1963 red vintage Massey tractor and trailer and start home deliveries of staple local foods, including meat, fruit and veg, eggs and honey.
Mrs Barron told Farmers Weekly: “We rear free range turkeys for Christmas and open a farm shop for three days selling everything you need for a Christmas dinner, including other meats, vegetables, etc.
“I said to my husband, why don’t we just put everything in a trailer and deliver it to locals round the villages? It has gone from there.
“We sell a range of foods from our farming neighbours, including free-range eggs, pork and strawberries.”
Mrs Barron takes the produce around the nearby villages of Great Tey, Little Tey and Aldham, just outside Colchester. Many of these villages no longer have local shops and they are home to a number of elderly residents.
Payment is by card, and orders are linked Mrs Barron’s phone so that she can observe government guidelines on social distancing. Locals also have to use the hand sanitiser provided before they select their produce.
As well as providing a vital food delivery service, for some residents Mrs Barron may be the only person they see all week. She is able to box up produce and deliver to the doorstep for those who are isolating.
Street names where deliveries will be made are posted in advance on the farm’s Facebook site. Residents are asked to leave a shopping bag on the fence or gate to request the tractor to stop.
Mrs Barron said: “I am working 12- to 13-hour days, basically until the sun sets. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding. People are so happy to see you.
“They have asked me to continue after coronavirus. I may do something. I haven’t decided yet.”
Great Tey resident Charlie Saville told BBC Look East: “It’s a brilliant system. Really good. And hopefully, very supported by the village.”
Farmers Weekly is getting behind the #FeedtheNation campaign to back UK farmers working flat out to produce safe, affordable and reliable food to feed the nation during the coronavirus crisis.
With our partners, we are raising public awareness of this campaign by highlighting the actions farmers are taking to get food to consumers.