VEGETABLE grower AS Green and Co, where a coronavirus outbreak affecting more than 70 workers was confirmed on Sunday, July 12, had launched a search for workers earlier this year.

The grower in Mathon near Malvern needed willing workers to join its family farm this summer to help get the UK crop of tenderstem broccoli from the field to our dinner tables.

The plea for workers came as the coronavirus pandemic reduced the supply of labour.

The jobs, which were needed between June and November, offered people in Herefordshire the opportunity to boost their income.

By the end of May the farm said it had been "inundated" with applications for the 160 jobs on offer.

Andrew Green, owner of AS Green & Co, said the time: “It was heartening to receive such a huge influx of applications from members of the local community who wanted to work with us."

Earlier, he had explained the need for local workers: “The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in soaring demand for fresh produce, but with tighter boarder controls and travel restrictions in place, many UK farmers have been left with a labour shortage, putting their produce at risk.

“In line with the Feed the Nation campaign, we are looking for local workers to join our family team in Mathon.

"Not only does the role provide the opportunity to work in a safe, healthy environment throughout the summer months, but it also enables those who have been financially impacted by the pandemic to boost their income without jeopardising the support they will receive through the Government furlough scheme.

“They will also be playing their part in keeping the nation stocked up with fresh, healthy home-grown produce.”

The jobs on the farm were paying £8.85 per hour with bonus and accommodation, and travel could be arranged if required.

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, said earlier this year that he expected the “vast majority” of seasonal workers this year would be British.

“When you’re operating on the scale (that large food producers) are, you do need a few people around who know what they’re doing,” he said.

“You just can’t run these businesses on enthusiasm alone.”

He said that, historically, a “significant proportion” of pickers come from eastern Europe and return year after year.

“I think what that workforce provides is a bit of experience and know-how to mix in this year with the people who have never done this before,” said Mr Ward.

He said there had been a “terrific response” to the national campaign.

“If anything we’ve been overwhelmed with offers of help,” he said. “It’s been an amazing response.”