Building a purpose-built home for their seasonal workers is reaping rewards for a leading UK grower of bareroot trees and hedging.

Up until two years ago J & A Growers in Warwickshire provided portacabins for their 15 seasonal workers who live on the farm through the winter months –October to February. Trying to heat non-insulated cabins was racking up expensive energy bills and workers were constantly reporting problems.

“I decided to invest in some new accommodation and spent a number of years planning it,” said owner Jamie Dewhurst who knew someone who made purpose-built buildings. “It’s getting harder to attract people to come over to the UK to do this type of manual work. We can’t change the job but we can change the accommodation to be more comfortable and attractive to live in.”

Jamie involved his regular seasonal workers in the design of the accommodation, as he wanted to get it right for the people who would be living there.

“Their input was important,” added Jamie who spent a quarter of a million on the building, which has six twin bedrooms and one triple bedroom, male and female showering facilities, a kitchen and a shared sitting area. There’s even a ‘dirty room’ where everyone can decamp after a day’s work, which includes washing machines, tumble dryers and a toilet.

“We checked things such as whether the kitchen was going to be big enough and if they wanted a separate sitting area,” added Jamie. “They were impressed with the finished building.”

Since installing the new accommodation, heating bills have reduced and they have not had one complaint from the people living there.

“As soon as the new accommodation was up and running, it was the first year we didn’t have any problems. Every bill has dropped by a quarter and we seem to have workers who want to come back. They also keep it spotless and there hasn’t been any damage. Providing quality accommodation means people want to look after it too,” he said.

Jamie doesn’t deny it’s hard work on his farm, where during the peak season his team will be grading 130,000 trees a day. The business is the largest grower of Hawthorn in Europe and the biggest producer of hardwoods in the UK. They sell to the wholesale nursery trade in the UK and Europe and during the winter months would not be able to fulfil their orders without the labour HOPS provides.

“We can’t operate without a team. They are intrinsic to running the business and without them we wouldn’t have a business. My view is – you look after them, they will look after you,” said Jamie who regularly has returnees to the farm. “Despite us building up good relationships with our workers, I can’t afford to be without HOPS. I value their advice on new legislation and changes in the sector – and also I know they will find me new people if I am let down at the last minute. They’re an insurance net that I can’t afford to be without.”

For the latest guidance on Worker Caravan Accommodation for the UK, see here.