Can I apply if I’m not a student or recent graduate?
Of course you can! Our mission as a company is to support anyone early in their career who wants to develop their skills and become more employable. However, our marketing is targeted at UK university students and recent graduates. We have also received advice and practical support from university careers services, so if we find ourselves overwhelmed by applications, we may eventually give priority to groups that have some members of our target audience, as well as to individuals who are (or recently were or soon will be) students.
Why do you give preference to groups?
Farmers tell us that people who know each other well before they arrive are more likely to stay to the end of their placement. Group applications also enable us to fill more places more quickly. The good news for individual applicants is that there will often be a few slots left on a farm, once groups are allocated places.
How do group applications work?
Each group of 2 to 6 people has to nominate a “captain”, who consolidates all the CVs into a single document and submits them. The captain is then responsible for coordinating the live-video group interview.
Am I allowed to travel to the farm under Covid-19 regulations?
Absolutely. You are a key worker and will have a contract to prove where you’re going.
Do I have to organise and pay for my transport?
You will have to organise and pay for your initial transport to the farm. After that, you will most likely be living on site and able to walk to work. If not, daily transport will be provided free of charge.
Will I have to do “social distancing”?
Agriculture is a strictly regulated industry and has to follow the evolving Covid-19 regulations. However, those sharing accommodation automatically become a “household” so are free to socialise with each other (another reason to apply with your mates).
Will I be safe, well-treated and not exploited?
UniGrow only works with farms that strictly adhere to regulations, legislation and licensing: Covid-19, health & safety, Working Time Directive, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority…the lot. That’s why TARGETjobs has partnered with Pro-Force, who are among the most trusted recruiters of seasonal labour in the industry. In addition, their expert recruiters are carefully selecting farms that are well suited to UK students who have never done this kind of work before.
When you say “minimum wage” for the first couple of weeks what do you mean?
Some farms pay everyone the over-25 rate (£8.72), regardless of age. Others will pay under-25s the lower rate (£8.20). Once you hit your picking targets you will be earning more than that. It usually takes two weeks or so to get up to speed but some people get there faster. Some farms will have team rather than individual targets (yet another reason for applying with your mates).
Will I be sent home if I don’t meet my picking targets?
You will be given every chance to meet your target, with retraining and extra supervision if necessary. But farming is a business like any other. If you just aim to pick as little as you can and get the minimum wage for it, you will almost certainly be asked to leave. If one member of a group that applied together is asked to leave, the others will of course be welcome to stay, provided they are working well.
Will I be working with British students?
You will certainly be assigned to a farm with some other UniGrowers, but realistically most other pickers will be from overseas, probably from Eastern Europe. It’s a great opportunity to meet and work with people from different cultures… just like an internship in an investment bank or a multinational company! You may even pick up a smattering of new languages.
Who will I be reporting to?
Your immediate supervisor will probably be a very experienced picker whose native language is not English. Please be sensitive when asking for clarification of instructions and, in return, recognise that the working culture and management style may not be what you’re used to! For example, in high-pressure production environments, requests and advice can be direct to the point of sounding blunt – especially when most of the people giving and receiving them are not working in their own language.
Do I have to share a room?
You will probably be in a single-sex twin room, but some farms have dormitories or use local youth hostels to accommodate workers – again in single-sex groups. Caravans, showers and toilets may be shared with members of the opposite sex. Again, it’s a great reason to apply as a group, because you’ll already know your room-mate and caravan-mates. Some farms also have opportunities for couples to share rooms.
Can I live at home instead?
If you live very close to the farm, this may be possible, but not necessarily encouraged, as you’ll have to motivate yourself to get up and find your way to work every morning!
Will my accommodation have wi-fi?
That depends on the farm. Some farms only have wi-fi near the main office. Remember, you’ll be out in the country so even where there is wi-fi, broadband standards are not up to those on campus.
What about feeding myself?
Accommodation is nearly always self-catering. If there’s no regular bus to the local supermarket, the farm will run regular shopping trips for workers living on site. You might have to be a more organised shopper than usual, as your free time will be precious and opportunities to shop may be limited.
Can we chat as we work?
That depends on the type of crop and the distance between you and your workmates. If it’s practical, some people like to chat, while others prefer to concentrate. There will be plenty of breaks for chatting anyway.
Can I wear headphones while I work?
Probably not, for health and safety reasons. You need to be able to hear instructions. Some farms may allow you to listen to music, but only where it’s safe to do so.
What do I need to bring with me?
Again, that depends on the farm and the crop. You will be given a list, most likely including: sleeping bag, clothing suitable for outdoor work, waterproofs, sturdy shoes, wellies, enough money to buy food before your first pay packet… maybe more.
Is this really environmentally sound work?
That depends on your own standards to some extent! You probably won’t be working on a small organic farm, for example. But you will be producing food for the UK market, so you’ll definitely be doing your bit to reduce food miles. You’ll also probably be living on site so your carbon footprint will be minimal.
Do I get days off? And overtime?
You are legally required to have paid holiday in proportion to the hours you work. Most farms will ask you to take your holiday at the end of your contract. Until then, you’ll probably only have one day off per week. Optional overtime may be available, but you should focus on hitting your hourly targets within the standard working hours for the farm.
Is this a zero-hours contract?
Technically, yes. But lack of hours isn’t likely to be a problem on a farm! However, some flexibility may be required. For example, you may be asked to work a bit less one day and more the next.