When UK agricultural students for harvest work became increasingly difficult to find a few years ago, Andrew Sharpley started using Polish workers for three-month stints at Manor Farm, Thornhaugh, near Peterborough, where he has just one full-time worker.
The three men, which agency Europeople found for him then, have just completed their third harvest at the farm. They all have an agricultural background and return to Poland to work on family farms.
Stanislaw, Valdek and Pavel switch between running continuous flow driers on two farm sites and tractor and cultivation work.
“They are keen to put in many hours,” says Mr Sharpley. “It’s very refreshing when someone is happy to do whatever you ask them to – they don’t mind what job they do, they want to work.
“One of them had very poor English in the first year, so we used the best English speaker as our translator, but they are all fine now. We use very clear maps of the farm to help to make sure the men know where they are supposed to be working.
They also have two-way radios from the first day so that if they have problems they can always contact someone else on the farm.
“We stipulated that they needed to be fit to drive a tractor on UK roads, as the A1 cuts through the farm. We gave them each a morning’s one-to-one training on the tractors with one of our men.”
Free accommodation is provided in a mobile home on the farm and the men have the use of a farm vehicle and get holiday pay.
“It works very well – we have a contract with the agency and we fax time sheets every week, which the men countersign to approve them.”
Knowing their willingness to work and their reliability, Mr Sharpley was keen to ensure that the three Poles received higher than the minimum rate this year, but this and the agency premium are worth paying to ensure that he gets the right people.