Following labour shortages over the last couple of years which have seen soft fruit unharvested on Scottish farms, two leading soft fruit growers have travelled to Eastern Europe to recruit staff ahead of the season.
As picking begins, Barnsmuir Farm in Fife and Castleton Soft Fruit in Angus have both reported positive results from directly marketing their business to potential workers.
Tim Stockwell of Barnsmuir, which will require some 400 pickers this year, told The Courier about a recent trip to Bulgaria and Romania: “Pickers aren’t always trusting of agents in their own country and there are still rogue agents who will overcharge them. They don’t want to pick strawberries at ground level so we’ve moved to having 80% of the crop grown on tables which is a major attraction, and our accommodation is as good as anywhere. We’ve also opened an on-farm shop selling things from their own country.”
Ross Mitchell of Castleton has also said he is optimistic that the farm will secure the 600 pickers it needs this season: “We’re recruiting all the time and applications are looking good but all the growers in the UK are competing with the Dutch, Belgians and Germans for the same small pool of workers. We just need to see if they all turn up.”
Under the pilot Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme Barnsmuir Farm has been allocated 15 Ukrainian workers while Castleton Fruit is set to receive 25.
Photo Credit: Richard Crowhurst