Video: Farm pickups take emotional journey to Ukraine war

Farmers who have donated and driven almost 300 pickups laden with humanitarian aid to Ukraine have pledged to deliver more four-wheel-drive vehicles to the war-torn country during 2024.

Founded by a group of Scottish farmers, volunteers for the Pickups for Peace charity drove their first convoy of vehicles from the UK to Ukraine in March 2023. A further nine vehicle convoys have since followed.

The 1,200-mile road trip across Europe takes two days.

See also: How Devon farmer’s send-a-cow-to-Africa charity has changed lives

It involves six border crossings and an overnight stop in Poland before a police escort sherpas each convoy of vehicles to a secure military compound in the western Ukraine city of Lviv.

Vehicles are handed over to the chief of Lviv’s air defence. Some are converted into ambulances.

Others are used to ferry supplies and soldiers to and from the front line, where the fighting is at its most intense, in eastern Ukraine.

Volunteer drivers have included Sussex farmer James Baird. Already hosting nine Ukrainian refugees on his farm near Littlehampton, he has donated and driven two pickups to Lviv – the second as recently as mid-November.

Hear from some of the volunteer drivers as they joined the Pickups4Peace convoy of pick-ups crossing through the border of Ukraine in the video below.

Emotional journey

“It’s a very emotional journey,” says James. “It’s very difficult to describe. In one way, it’s an incredibly long distance. But equally, it is surprisingly close to home.

“It’s a country at war and you can see on the faces of the people that they are incredibly grateful for these vehicles.”

Toni Davis, from a Somerset farming family, came across Pickups For Peace when she visited the charity’s stand at the Royal Highland Show.

At the time, she was thinking of selling her Mitsubishi L200. Instead, she drove it to Lviv and donated it to Ukraine. “It was a no-brainer,” says Toni.

Pickups queuing at the Ukranian border

© MAG/Johann Tasker

“As a vehicle, it’s worth much more to people in Ukraine than it is to me – and it was good to give it a new lease of life.

“I have struggled with people’s appreciation of what we have done. If you’re a farmer and you can donate a vehicle, my message is just do it.”

James Rigby, from Clitheroe, Lancashire, tells a similar story.

After hearing about Pickups For Peace on the Farmers Weekly Podcast, he joined his first convoy in July and went out again in September, driving a Mazda CX7 donated by a well-wisher from Bradford.

“We set off on Sunday afternoon, took the boat from Hull to Rotterdam and then drove about 12 hours to Poland,” he says. “We brought tyres, some blankets and workshop tools – it’s been quite an eye-opening journey.”

After arriving in Lviv, volunteer drivers are given a tour of the city. It includes a visit to the Field of Mars at Lychakiv cemetery, where Lviv’s war dead are buried.

Many of those lying here are in their 20s and 30s – including a 31-year-old female paramedic.

Field of Mars at Lychakiv cemetery

© MAG/Johann Tasker

“It’s such a waste,” says James. “I’m 46 and when you walk around the cemetery, there aren’t many people buried here older than me. It’s crazy.”

Scottish farmer and Pickups For Peace co-founder Mark Laird has had farming interests in Ukraine since 2006.

He is chief executive of the Central Plains Group, a potato producer and processing company that employs 100 Ukrainians.

“When Russia invaded, we couldn’t sit back and let Putin stamp his boots all over Ukraine,” explains Mark. “We had to do something.”


On the first day of the war, Mark and other Central Plains Group directors started buying bulletproof vests and other protective equipment for their staff. After that, one thing quickly led to another, he says.

“Once we’d dealt with the immediate issues of of getting protection for our staff, we started raising money that could be donated to the local school.

“We were taking donations of clothing, and then we got a couple of trucks from Poland and gave them to the emergency services.”

By that time, it was autumn 2022 and winter was setting in. “We were introduced to the 24th Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian army in Lviv.

“It was soon clear they were lacking in all-weather clothing. Then it was clear they needed vehicles, too.”

Army officers said they were in desperate need of pickups for bringing injured soldiers back from the front line, where standard ambulances could take over and rush casualties to hospital, says Mark.

It was at that moment, Pickups For Peace was born.

Sign on pickup

© MAG/Johann Tasker

“When we first asked UK farmers to donate vehicles, we had no idea how many pickups we would get. But we set ourselves a vague target of 50 trucks by June, thinking we might reach 100 pickups by perhaps November.”

The first convoy in March comprised about 25 vehicles. Since then, Pickups For Peace has gone from strength to strength, with offers of help from farmers the length and breadth of the UK – as well as from well-wishers from outside agriculture.

“We could see from the reaction of the people who came on that first trip that they would not go home and forget about their experiences,” says Mark.

“Quite clearly, they were going to go and spread the message – which they did.”

Essential supplies

The message has snow-balled after every convoy since. Pickups continue to be donated and so too do essential supplies – including generators, spades and other tools, chainsaws, tyres, ratchet straps and medical supplies.

“We will be continuing as long as this war is on,” says Mark. “There is a mountain of work to be done every time there’s a convoy and it’s all done by people in their spare time because they have a love for Ukraine.

“But the war is not only a problem for Ukraine. This is a serious global problem, and if we don’t help Ukraine stop the Russians in in the east of Ukraine, then this problem is never going to go away. It will only get closer to home.”

Pickups For Peace is a registered Scottish charity. To get involved, visit

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