Circulated to all Staff and Tenants and sent to Amerton Railway for reference:
26th May 2020
How are you all keeping, can I just say as directors we are missing you all? Amerton is a very quiet and strange place without staff, our tenants and customers.
Can we firstly apologise for not getting this newsletter to you before now, but as a family we seem to have been on a roller coaster, since we closed on 18th March, which is now 3 months ago. As a family we are very much living in separate households. Amy, Alex and the girls have been doing all the farm work and caring for animals, with Richard and I doing mainly the paperwork relating to keeping the business going. Directors meetings, to discuss the way forward is done on the phone, which are on loud speakers or zoom, which is a very, very different way of working to ‘normal’.
All Amerton Farm Ltd’s staff have been furloughed. We are however, grateful to Laura Baldwin and Codi Swinson who have come in recently on a voluntary basis to give Alex and Amy 2 days off, because until a few weeks ago they had had no time off since the crisis started. We are also grateful to Emma who has also worked again on a voluntary basis from home helping to find grants and looking for things to help us in the future to take the business forward after Covid 19 is over and keeping our social media going.
The site is generally clear of people except for the car park and food hall. The Food Hall has taken off very well doing deliveries and pickups. At the beginning of the crisis when people were stock piling, the butchers had several days of over a hundred orders a day. Nick the Fish, Dan and Emily the new butchers are keeping everything running smoothly in the food hall and the customer base keeps growing with the endless meat offers. It seems some people prefer to come here to Amerton as they are not queuing in a supermarket. Recently they have introduced a mobile food van serving readymade meals, burgers, donuts and candy floss.
I am aware finance has been very tight for many, including ourselves and our tenants since this crisis first started. We have never had an overdraft as a business, but recently acquired that privilege. We have also applied for the business interruption loan, which we are still waiting to receive. We have managed to claim furlough, but unfortunately that did not come through in time to pay staff by 20th April, which concerned us greatly at the time. The furlough scheme did not start until the 20th April and once claimed it takes 6 working days to arrive in our bank.
You may have heard lots of debate in the media about business grants; unfortunately, Amerton Farm Ltd and our Tenants were not eligible for these grants because of the way we paid our rates. We had already started the process of separating all the tenants’ units, so tenants could claim small business rate relief. Thankfully the process was quickened up by the Valuation office, what normal takes 6 months, was thankfully achieved in 1 month as Amerton Farm Ltd and tenants were made a special case by Stafford Borough Council to receive the government grant. This was really good news as that grant money has helped us plan to re-open the site and give us a bit of “wriggle room” as they say.
Amerton Farm Ltd is a member of the National Farm Attractions Network, which has thankfully enabled us to talk to other farm park operators regarding future plan and we meet weekly on a zoom conference call every Friday evening. This is useful to enable us to debate ideas for the future and seek ideas from Scotland to Cornwall and everywhere in between.
The good news is the phone is ringing constantly to ask if we are open yet.
We are working on plans to re-open, but who knows when that will be? It seems we will open in stages with some form of phased return and it will definitely be a “New Normal” for some time to come.
- Defra has issued a paper this weekend about open spaces, which are paid for, being allowed to open. This may mean we can open just the farm and we are looking at the possibility of putting a door in the ice cream parlour just so customers can visit the farm only.
- I cannot see us being able to open Billy’s, for some time yet, as I am unsure how we can socially distance in this setting, successfully and lawfully.
- I hope tenants will be able to open in the next government announcement, at the moment we are allowing customers by appointment only for tenants, who cannot work from home. On Monday the PM announced that some shops will be able to open on the 15th June 2020, will include our tenants. See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-sets-out-timeline-for-retail-to-reopen-in-june for details.
- All tenants will need to provide their own PPE, risk assessments and meet insurance needs, also ensuring social distancing is observed in their units.
- Our main worries are all the restrictions, which we will have to apply to re-open.
- All staff working for Amerton Farm Ltd are furloughed except self employed staff and myself.
- Of course all these plans have to be feasible and make money by being cost effective.
- We also believe most payments may have to become cashless.
- If you have any ideas to throw into the opening strategy please email Eunice on email@example.com and please let us know as we are open to all suggestions.
- We appreciate only too well that our staff and tenants are the ones on the ground, delivering the customer experience, so very much need your input.
- When we have formulated a clear re-opening policy, we plan to share it with staff, tenants and volunteers at Amerton Railway, but we believe we will have to accept, this will probably be a document which will be subject to much change as things move on to the “New Norm”.
As directors we have discussed several possible savings, which we could introduce to help in these very unprecedented times and listening to what other Farm Park operators across the country have been saying. One idea that has had a lot of support from other operators is to cut our opening days. So, we as directors are making the following suggestions for everyone’s consideration. We thought it would be a good idea, to consult with both tenants and staff on this issue.
- The directors wondered if we should trial opening six days of the week during term times only.
- The proposal is to close on a Monday. However, we would open every Bank holiday Monday and Mondays during school holidays
- We would respect it if tenants wanted to work on a Monday and receive customers by appointment only.
- Amerton Farm Ltd accept the office would have to remain open and obviously we would need farm staff who could work a morning and afternoon shift to care for animals.
- Amerton Farm Ltd would need to work every Monday in December because of our Santa offering and it may be considered that everyone should remain open on Mondays in December due to Christmas sales.
The advantages to this proposed trial are we believe:
- We could trial this using Covid 19 as an excuse
- It would allow all tenants, who normally working 7 days a week, to have one day a week off on Monday during term time
- It would allow more flexibility for staffing for both Amerton Farm Ltd and tenants who employ staff.
- Being closed on a Monday would allow for all site staff training time without closing and an opportunity to carry out deep cleaning when the site is closed.
So could you please all fill the attached questionnaire and return to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 8th June 2020.We will then look at the results and let all staff and tenants know what the results of the survey are during that week. Please note no decision has been made, this is just a suggestion at this stage and we will need a clear majority to follow a proposed trial.
Staff and Tenants Facebook page
If you want to keep in touch and are not a member search, “Amerton Farm Staff and Tenants”, it is a closed group only for current staff and tenants. If you join those with admin rights will join you up. Jez Bates the Blacksmith represents the tenants and Laura Baldwin is the staff admin. The page is called “Amerton Farm Staff and Tenants”.
Text Message Service
Text messages will continue with staff and tenants up dates as and when needed. We have spoken to all staff and tenants regularly to keep in touch. We are also looking at the possibility of introducing a Staff and Tenant intro-net to better aid communication on our website.
Thank you to all Staff and Tenants
Thank you to everyone who has given up their valuable time to lobby the Tourism Minister and your MP, it is very important to get our message heard, if you haven’t done it you still have time. If you get any replies from your emails please can you forward them to Eunice.
Tenants go funding Support to Feed Animals
We are very grateful to all the tenants who have organised a fabulous and generous raffle via facebook, offering the prizes to support feeding the animals by making a minimum donations of £10 and to date we have raised £820. . Prizes include: Unique Metal works are donating a Unique Metalworks experience day worth £150; Amerton Blacksmith is donating a Blacksmith Experience day for up to 2 people, worth £150; Hair by Elizabeth Eloise is donating a cut and blow dry worth £30; Hair by Elizabeth Eloise is donating a gel bottle application for fingers and toes worth £47; Champion Hot Tubs are donating a hot tub hire; Wendy’s Craft Corner is donating a 4 hour workshop to learn how to crochet or knit, worth £40; Be Wild are donating a puzzle experience for a team of up to 6 players with value of £80; Be Wild are donating a 2 hour family forest school experience for up to 6 with value of £30; Amerton Farm are donating an Alpaca Walk for 2, worth £50; Amerton Pottery are donating a potter’s wheel experience worth £25; Amerton Pottery are donating a paint a pot experience worth £25; Amerton Farm Shop are donating £50 to spend in Amerton Farm Shop; Amerton Arts Studio is donating a one-day stone carving course, worth £70 and more prizes to be announced!
We have prepared the land ready for planting pumpkins when they are ready to be transplanted from the poly tunnel. Let’s just hope we are open to enjoy October half term.
It’s alright not to be alright
There is much talk about everyone’s mental health right now, as everyday can seem the same as the last day, if you are at home on furlough or trying to deal with this crisis and secure your business and secure bank loans etc. Can I just say, “It is alright not to be alright and if you are feeling unwell.” As a company we pay for a telephone
Counselling service and the details are attached. It is a completely confidential service we are never told who uses the service and so if you wish to ring the number attached on the leaflet and tell them you work at Amerton Farm you will receive this service. Please, please use it if you feel you need to talk to someone. Several staff that have used it in the past and have decided to tell us, they have all said it is a very good service. I strongly urge you to consider it if you feel you need to use it. As directors we would like to think our contribution to the service is being used if needed.
If anyone has any good ideas to help Amerton for the future please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please fill in the attached questionnaire if you have any ideas on re-opening and your views about future opening days.
Eunice E Finney ARAgS,
Managing Director of Amerton Farm Ltd.
Amerton Farm Ltd
Staff and Tenants Questionnaire during Covid 19
- Please complete electronically by copying this form
- Open a new email
- Copy and paste the questionnaire into the new email
- Complete the form
- Then return the email to email@example.com
- By 8th June 2020.
Thanks in advance
Name: Staff member/Tenant/ Staff of a Tenant/
Volunteer from Amerton Farm Ltd (Please delete as appropriate)
If you have any ideas for us to consider when writing the Amerton Farm Ltd Re-opening Strategy, please list them below:
For Tenants with units only
We are aware some tenants are already back at work, particularly those who cannot work from home. Please state date you returned?
For those tenants not back at work, do you have any thoughts about any re-opening date?
Do you plan to work on an appointment only system to start with? YES or NO or NOT SURE YET
Do you have PPE arranged? YES or NO or NOT YET
Have you prepared Risk Assessments? YES or NO or NOT YET
Have you informed your insurance company you are re-opening? YES or NO or NOT YET
What measures are you doing to ensure social distancing in your units?
Do you think we should change our opening days at Amerton Farm? YES or NO
Do you think as a site we should consider closing on a Monday during term time? YES or NO
If you have answered yes to the above question do you think we should have a trial? YES or NO
If you have answered yes to the above question how long do you think the trial should be?
Do you think we should close on Mondays during December? YES or NO