EVEN THOUGH we can’t enjoy any Wimbledon action this year, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the traditional strawberries and cream without the sporting action – especially when it means you are supporting local farmers like Tim Stockwell.

On the outskirts of Crail, the Stockwell’s 1000 acre family farm is well placed in one of Fife’s most picturesque areas. They grow a range of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, including broccoli, cauliflower, raspberries, blackberries and more recently blueberries. But at this time of year the main attraction really is strawberries.

The story of this year’s harvest was almost one of disaster for Mr Stockwell, and many other growers, as Covid-19 meant that the vital foreign labour who come over in great numbers every year were unable to because of travel restrictions.

“Like many, we didn’t know where we would be in terms of labour during our busy times in June,” said Tim. “From day to day we just didn’t know where would be.”

As it became clear that not only would he be struggling for labour but at the same time people in the area were struggling for work due to Covid-19 restrictions, Tim went to the local community to offer a solution to both issues.

“We took on around 60 local workers over the last four months, through our own advertising as well as the union’s labour matching service, with 30 to 35 on board during picking and about 20 still with us at the moment.

“It isn’t easy work, it’s very physical and not suited to everyone. We took on a few folk over forty but the majority that have stuck with us are in their early 20s. It really is a job for the young.

“We weren’t able to fill all the positions with local workers, but we are extremely grateful to those who did apply and to all those who helped during this extremely difficult time.”

The situation for Tim, and other growers like him, could have been a lot different if the labour shortage had not come at the same time as so many people were put onto furlough or unemployed.

“Obtaining and managing labour is one of the biggest challenges for our type of business, we need to employ over 600 people throughout the year with almost year round production of either fruit or veg.”

By buying Scottish strawberries, you are supporting local farmers and local economies here in Scotland. So, if you’re tucking into some strawberries and cream this weekend, make sure to use Scottish.

(This blog was originally published on www.nfus.org.uk)