Farming through a pandemic: family business
Friday, 8th May 2020 by Richenda Wilson

Emergency callout! Please bring your own egg boxes to refill at the market - as well as any spares you have. There's a national shortage!

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The Covid-19 outbreak has brought different challenges for everyone. For organic livestock farmers Fabienne and Simon Peckham from Galileo Farm in Warwickshire, it‘s all about the spare parts.

“The biggest challenge has been getting the bits we need to keep going,” says Fabienne. “As farmers, we rely on machinery. We’re mechanically minded and we repair things, so we always need parts. Today we need new tyres for the truck.”

 

Supply and demand
And something that has never caused problems in the past has suddenly become an issue. “I don’t tend to have accounts with my suppliers – I just run into the shop, grab what I need and pay – but now only account holders are allowed to order, so I’m hunting around to find a friend with an account.”

Agricultural suppliers are staying open so farmers can continue their vital job of feeding the population. But builders’ merchants have all closed. “So people in construction are buying from agricultural suppliers, then we can’t get what we need, like hurdles so we can move cattle around on the farm safely,” adds Fabienne. 

 

Remote working
Another challenge has been ensuring the safety of workers on the farm. “Our butchers room is too small for us all to work at the same time, so we’re working in shifts now. 

“I start at 6am to get everything ready by 9am, then the packers come in and work till 4pm. After they go, we start again.”

This means Fabienne and Simon have had their days free to do other farm jobs. “I always have a wish list of jobs in my book – putting in a new track, fixing the chicken house. We’re achieving a lot and moving forward. That feels good."

 

Multitasking
Like many people working from home during lockdown, Fabienne also has children to supervise and cajole into doing their timetabled lessons. 

She says having the kids about has been lovely – one of the bonuses of the new normal. “We’ve been doing things as a family, all going together to move the sheep from one field to another.”

She’s proud of Monty, 13, who sometimes helps his mum at the GC farmers’ market. He has now stepped up to run some markets on his own. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Archie has been helping with farm jobs. Each of the boys has a goal for their hard-earned wages. Monty wants to buy an old Norton Major tractor that he can work on, while Archie has set his sights on a pedigree Texel sheep!

Safe market
Selling direct through farmers’ markets gives the Peckhams a relatively secure, reliable and knowledgeable outlet for the high-welfare animals they rear: “As a small producer I definitely feel many people don’t understand just how crucial the farmers’ markets are to us and our animals.

"We aren’t a big business with lots of money behind us. The animals that we rear, our aim is for them to thrive and that is the front to any decision that we make about them.” 

Fabienne has just celebrated her second anniversary selling meat and eggs at our farmers’ market and describes it as something really special: “It has changed my family’s life and that of our animals. By selling direct to customers who have a vested interest in the care of the animals that they eat, we are able to invest in the infrastructure to improve the animals’ lives as well as ours.”

Author name: 
Richenda Wilson