COVID-19 PANDEMIC: IMPORTANT INFO ABOUT VOLUNTEERING AT THE FARM

This page was last updated on Thursday 4th June 2020.

We have placed a temporary freeze on welcoming new volunteers to the farm.
This is because we are capping the number of volunteers coming to the farm for each session so that we can implement physical distancing measures.
We have been receiving a very high number of new volunteer applications, and it’s just not possible to continue to welcome new volunteers into the system.
This is likely to be the case until the Covid-19 restrictions significantly change, and people start returning to work en masse.
Sorry for any disappointment caused, and thank you for your understanding.

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Volunteering at the farm during the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Questions have been raised as to whether volunteering at the farm constitutes essential work, and is therefore a valid reason to leave your home. There is a distinct lack of real clarity around this issue as there has been no explicit mention in a difference between paid and non-paid work in maintaining essential services.
  • What is clear is that the farm is an essential service, with those working for the farm considered to be key workers.
  • As stated in this official line from the Government, our business is critical as we fall into the following category of Food and other necessary goods – “This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods”.
  • We are focusing on our core activities as a community organisation, namely growing organic vegetables and running our not-for-profit VegBox delivery service. We rely on the help of many volunteers in delivering these outputs, and so we hope that volunteers assess their personal level of risk and continue to come to volunteer if they feel comfortable doing so. We rely on the VegBox income to survive as an organisation.
  • Volunteering at the farm is a good chance to get out in the fresh air, benefiting your physical and psychological health. The growing season now underway, and we are experiencing a high demand for fresh organic fruit and veg, so we hope volunteers will see the good in coming to the farm to volunteer.
  • We have introduced an online rota management system, whereby you will need to book for specific volunteer sessions on a weekly basis. This is so that we can even out the numbers of volunteers, and to ensure that we have contingency plans for sessions that are low on numbers. We need to be highly organised to ensure that everyone coming to volunteer stays safe, and that we can continue as a community organisation. You can access this rota system once you have come to volunteer for the first time.
  • Please follow the NHS advice, and do not come to volunteer if you or anyone else in your household has a cough, a fever, or shortness of breath. Even if the symptoms are mild, you must self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days if you have symptoms, or 14 days if someone in your household has symptoms.

We will be taking steps to reduce social contact at the farm

  • We have set up a sheltered, outdoor tea station.
  • Breaks will be staggered throughout the day to reduce the number of people sharing the break space, with a chance to sit down on chairs spaced 2m apart.
  • We will be making use of the whole farm for our lunch break, spreading out tables so that we don’t all need to share the marquee space. In case of rain, we do have shelter in some of our polytunnels!
  • We will set up VegBox prep and packing stations and workspaces to ensure that while you are doing your task there is a 2m gap between stations. Where possible, please try to maintain this distance whilst moving around as well.
  • We will put the sign in sheet and coat / bag storage in the lean to to give ourselves more space in the Veg Shed.
  • As best as possible, please stay out of the Veg Shed.

Please help us in taking extra hygiene measures

  • Please wash your hands at the external sinks (by the toilet and close to the compost heap)
  • It is mandatory for all staff and volunteers to wash their hands with soap for 20 seconds when they arrive at the farm. Please do this before you sign in or use the toilet.
  • Wash your hands before and after eating.
  • We also encourage extra regular hand washing for 20 seconds during the time your are volunteering.
  • Using antibacterial hand gel that you bring with you is a good idea, but it is not a substitute for washing your hands with water and soap.
  • Volunteers are welcome to use disposable gloves but please still regularly wash your hands as this is the most effective way to reduce transmission.
  • We will provide disposable paper towels for hand drying.
  • If you are doing a packing task, please clean your workstation and weighing scales with the disinfectant spray and disposable paper towel before and after you do your task.
  • If you are doing a packing task, please wash your weighing bowl and the handles of crates with warm soapy water after use.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in the landfill bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.

Please be mindful of working with staff and volunteers and be respectful of the extra precautions they might want to take, or might ask you to take. This is a tense time for everyone, so let’s work together in supporting each other.

This situation is unprecedented, and so for as long as it continues we all need to take steps to be safe, responsible and to support each other in minimising risk. Please contact Sonia (sonia@suttoncommunityfarm.org.uk) if you have any questions or concerns, or suggestions for improvement in any of our practices and protocols.
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More info on volunteering can be found here.