#WeAreCLA: A lifeline for communities

21 May 2020

While the UK’s two months of lockdown may have disrupted the supply chain and left eggs and bread akin to gold dust, there has been no shortage of community spirit. 

CLA members have been rallying around their local communities to offer support and boost morale. From delivering boxes of produce to inspirational gestures of gratitude for our healthcare workers, Lois Shearing reports on some inspiring stories from members across England and Wales. 

Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen

Forage Farm Shop and Kitchen in Wales was preparing to launch its new farm shop and restaurant when the pandemic hit at the end of March. “It is probably the boldest project ever undertaken on the estate, not only in terms of capital expenditure but also with regard to the new direction it should take us as a business, providing a direct outlet for the animals reared and veg grown on the farm,” explained Tom Homfray, one of the Managing Partners of Penllyn Estate.

To avoid having to furlough staff and postpone the opening even further, Forage Farms decided to bring  its produce to the local community via collection or delivery boxes, which can be ordered on its online shop. It has also teamed up with some other local farmers and artisan food producers to offer a versatile and fresh hamper. 

“Although deeply frustrating that we have not been able to open the shop and restaurant as planned, it has been really rewarding to make something out of the current circumstances. We are delighted to be able to offer discounts to NHS workers, whose efforts have been so humbling during this extraordinary time,” said Tom. 

Pensons

Over the border in Worcestershire, Michelin-star restaurant Pensons has also been providing meals to local residents as a way of boosting community spirit. After the restaurant was forced to close due to the lockdown, staff were keen to create a new normal and rally around their local community. 

They launched Provisions for our People, an initiative to deliver free meals to key front-line NHS workers, the elderly, and medically vulnerable people in the nearby area. “There is often a lack of resources in rural areas to support those who are self-isolating for age or medical reasons and like everywhere else in the country, our NHS workers are fully stretched,” Owner Peta Darnley said. “This gives them a respite from having to think about what to cook at the end of a long shift.”

He continued: “We have been working with some fantastic local suppliers who have generously donated ingredients for us to cook with, our chefs have been tireless in their enthusiasm for the quality of the meals they are producing and we are also very grateful for all the volunteers who have helped us deliver them all over Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.”

#ClapForOurCarers

Meanwhile, in Wales, farmers have been adding their own twist to #ClapForOurCareers by gathering together in their tractors and farm machinery. Some have even created a huge temporary tribute by cutting ‘NHS’ into their field. 

“The many thousands of horsepower in these machines and the commitment of the men and women in the team who drive them reflect the whole rural community’s support for the NHS teams and their resources to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic,” explained Richard Anthony whose family organised the weekly displays. 

Members of the public have greatly appreciated the initiatives spearheaded by CLA members. “In these difficult days it is ‘surprises’ like yours that really make life a little easier and fuel the thought that it will all come right eventually,” one grateful recipient wrote to Pensons, which is also offering seasonal recipe ideas on their website. 

Tom Homfray added: “Some customers order for their parents or vulnerable friends, and the gratitude when they receive the order – a box bursting with fresh veg and meat – is quite heart-warming. There’s a definite sense of the community coming together, and buying local and supporting local businesses.” 

Email lois.shearing@cla.org.uk to share how you are supporting your local community during the pandemic.