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As all parents will know, the lockdown has been a real challenge working from home while having your children at home with you. Sarah Green, who runs Sarah Green's Organics, is a working mum, with many of the same challenges, except there are tractors, sheep and goats in the mix as well as the usual household chores and remote learning to navigate.
It's been a particularly busy time for Sarah's business since the pandemic hit – she described the end of March as “the most challenging weeks of my farming life!”
Sarah runs a 40-acre organic farm in Tillingham, Essex, which supplies her own box scheme as well wholesale to London schemes like ours, and farmers' markets in Essex and London.
“We usually pack 140 boxes a week. That increased to 260 boxes almost overnight.”
Of course she was very happy for the extra business, but as she puts it: “It's a terrible time of year in the hungry gap, plus I had four staff self isolating and basically had to reorganise the whole business in about 10 days.”
“Having children with me!”
Sarah's always loved how working on a farm gives her the flexibility to fit work around the demands of being a mother. Her two children, aged 7 and 4, often accompany her with her farm work. She calls them her little apprentices.
She occasionally excuses herself from the conversation to call out to her apprentices, who are hoola-hooping in the farm yard: “Mind the tractor!”
Coronavirus made logistics very tricky for Sarah – the lockdown coincided with the hungry gap. There are fewer vegetables in the fields, so she's having to source the veg elsewhere, whilst also completely changing the delivery rounds, getting the veg boxes out to customers and dealing with increased enquiries.
But when the schools closed, the prospect of home schooling while running her incredibly busy farm operation took working mum to another level.
“It's been incredibly busy, exhausting and overwhelming at times.”
The customers' response is what's kept her going. “They've been incredibly supportive and kind, and flexible. We've been receiving so many lovely supportive emails and drawings left out by children of coloured rainbows. We've started a Covid-19 wall of thanks in the office!”
They had a huge response from local family and friends coming to help with packing and deliveries, including a local chef who they usually supply but who has had to close his restaurant so he's helping with their deliveries instead.
Sarah reflected that it felt nice to feel valued. “I equally felt a huge responsibility to get food to households. That's been quite hard.”
Sarah points out: “Keyworkers are the lower paid people and they're the ones everyone is relying on now. I hope this changes people's attitudes going forward.”