Rhubarb Farm is now classed as an essential service, both for our growing, andbecause of the many people we are supporting.

Rhubarb Farm had to close the Farm to volunteers on 23rd March. We then adaptedour work to delivering food bags to volunteers on food poverty or self-isolating, and to referrals from GPs and social workers.

We have food supplied to us from the wonderful Fareshare, and supplement it with some produce from the Farm, as well as buying in essentials like milk, bread and eggs with money we received from a funding award, because Fareshare cannot access these essentials.

Staff converted our Training Room into a food packing area and take the deliveries out every Friday.

Last week we delivered 53 bags in the rural area around the Farm. In addition, staff are contacting every volunteer by phone every week, to check on their mental health, help their resilience, encourage physical activity and support them with other things that may arise (eg wifi connections, benefits, etc).

Staff have set up a closed Facebook page for volunteers called “Rhubarb Farmers Don’t Crumble” so volunteers and staff can keep in touch and post things they’re doing or needing. It’s a nice way for volunteers to keep in touch with each other although of course, not all our volunteers have access to Wifi or laptops. Volunteers are setting staff a challenge every week, so one week two of them ran a race, another week they did a handstand challenge (putting a T-shirt on upside down with their feet high up on the fence!) and coming up will be a swimming competition, with staff on a table and a washing up bowl.

9 of our 20 staff are still working on site doing the food delivery management, phone calls to volunteers and doing the horticultural work on site that means we will have crops to harvest later in the summer, autumn and winter. If we didn’t do this there would probably be nothing until June 2021, because March to May is the hungry gap for vegetables grown in this country. 4 staff are working from home, and 7 are furloughed. It is hard because we cannot justify furloughing any more, so we have done lots of funding applications to help maintain staff salaries, though because of the dire situation, all funders are struggling to meet demand, and most giving just 25-30% of requested funds, but of course, that is so much better than nothing!

Rhubarb Farm has a wonderful staff team, and they are all going the extra mile to support people in need – that is a bright star in this dark time.