Britain's farms were already in trouble in terms of harvesting before the COVID-19 coronavirus hit. The 2016 Brexit vote led to a drop in fruit and vegetable pickers from the EU flooding in for the season, with UK farms reporting a shortage of 10-20% of seasonal workers in 2019.
Despite the government expanding the number of permitted non-EU seasonal workers four-fold in early 2020, subsequent COVID-related restrictions presaged a severe shortfall. Hence the clarion cry to 'Pick for Britain', as reflected in this black and white ad, which plays on the word 'pick' to denote choice, and hails essential fruit/veg-picking as a tough but noble choice.
(Photo: Detail from 'Pick for Britain' commercial)
What effect does it have on you? "Makes me feel a bit funny," one of our viewers commented.
"It is ironic that the immigrants they have kicked out did do this type of work and now they are asking for the 'normal' people of the UK to help out."
Dr Lisa McKenzie shares that unease over the mixed narrative and explains the nature of 'piece work' (not a hashtag) in this report for RT. She expresses the hope - shared by many - that essential workers will in future be appropriately valued and paid. She also points out that the seasonal workers who traditionally come in to do the picking are highly skilled, efficient, and physically prepared for the back-breaking work.
(Photo from http://pro-force.co.uk/seasonal-worker-pilot/ )
Many Brits are of course among those workers, or well fitted to take it on. However, for those who are willing to take it up for much-needed income and activity at this time, the relentless physicality of the job will limit the chances of many. Injury drop-out is a concern for farmers, who also have to take into account that British recruits who are taken on may leave as soon as they are able to return to their usual work.
The Waitrose campaign crashed the website set up to handle inquiries from interested UK workers, many of whom found themselves in desperate financial straits because of loss of income during the COVID restrictions.
Portraying the work as a noble choice for the fittest or those prepared to work hard might be inspiring for some, but how injurious is it for those who are already struggling with circumstances to feel so clearly excluded? "Profoundly distasteful," said one of our viewers.
The war terminology that has been persistently deployed throughout the COVID-19 coronavirus situation is something that has alarmed and annoyed many.
Prince Charles has joined the call to 'Pick for Britain' in this campaign, speaking of recreating the Land Army - a British civilian organisation created during World War II so women could work in agriculture, replacing men called up to the military.
The lifelong environmental campaigner for sustainability, good food and farming who founded the Duchy Organic range - which is now run by supermarket chain Waitrose - has always taken flak for his outspoken views. This ad, in which he reminds us that 'Food doesn't happen by magic', has predictably drawn negative comments aimed at the heir to the throne, speaking from a position of privilege.
"My grandmother worked as a Land Girl during World War II," responds one viewer. "We're in different circumstances now. She would have said we're not in a war situation, now is not that desperate in comparison. And she'd have called BJ (Prime Minister Boris Johnson) a plonker for mishandling things so badly."
For others, the war-time analogy is inspiring rather than out of place. It enables many to feel a sense of purpose and usefulness, while others relish the physical demands of land work and like to feel it is being acknowledged.
Whatever our views, we can probably all agree with Prince Charles that food does not happen by magic, and truly appreciate it all the more in the post-COVID world.