TODAY the Hereford Times launches a campaign to support Herefordshire's food producers through the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.

Backing Herefordshire Farming will explain the difficulties they face, and showcase the enterprises battling on to produce the top-quality food for which the county has become famous.

The message is that people should buy local wherever possible, and do their best to help Herefordshire's biggest industry – one which is of key importance to the entire county economy.

We will be spreading to word to our huge audience across print, online and social media, and we are invited people to join us using the hashtag #BackHerefordshireFarming, which works across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Encouragement from our campaign has come from some key figures in Herefordshire agriculture.

John Reed, agricultural director of Avara Foods, which operates a huge chicken processing plant in Hereford, said: "As one of the biggest employers in Hereford, and with roots dating back to the 1960s, we warmly welcome all efforts which highlight the important part agriculture plays during these challenging times.

"Herefordshire farmers work tirelessly to produce quality British foods and are integral to keeping the nation fed."

Bill Quan, National Farmers' Union Herefordshire chairman, who farms at Pontrilas, said: “We are all facing challenging times and we welcome this campaign and thank people for their continued support of Herefordshire farmers and growers.

“At this time the National Farmers’ Union remains busy, staying in close contact with its extensive network of members, to gather important sector and Covid-19 information and the union is lobbying Government and working hard on a variety of key industry issues for county farmers.”

“We are a major and diverse food producing county. Be assured we will continue farming throughout this emergency, producing high quality, tasty, nutritious, affordable and traceable food and drink for the people of Herefordshire and those across the country.”

Soft fruit grower Anthony Snell, of AJ and CI Snell, said: "At this incredibly challenging health and economic time in our lives we fully support the excellent Hereford Times initiative to Back Herefordshire Farming, complementing the National Farmers' Union Back British Farming initiative.

"As a local horticultural grower producing healthy fresh and frozen strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and blackcurrants (conventional and organic) at Windmill Hill, Harewood End in south Herefordshire, we urge our valued local residents to support Herefordshire farmers and buy local, where in Herefordshire we have a very sustainable farming community producing almost 50 per cent of all the fruit and vegetables in the West Midlands, as well as traditionally world-famous Hereford beef cattle."

Currently, one of farming's key concerns about the affect of coronavirus on the industry is the supply of seasonal workers.

The NFU says growers who rely on seasonal workers to grow, pick and pack fresh fruit, veg and flowers are worried about the impact coronavirus restrictions may have on their ability to recruit this critical workforce this season.

NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw said: “As the peak summer harvest approaches, we have been working closely with Defra to ensure a solution is in place for businesses to recruit domestic workers this summer.

“A dedicated ‘Pick for Britain’ website has been created by the Government that provides opportunities for people who want to work on farms this summer and we are expecting further news from the government this week on a drive to recruit people who want to help British farms.

“There will be thousands of vacancies opening up on farms across the country in the coming weeks and we have already seen a fantastic response from the public wanting to pick for Britain this summer.

“Farmers are incredibly proud to be producing food for the nation at this crucial time but there are challenges and the support of the British public is incredibly valued.”