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In depth: Rural issues in Somerset

Cutliffe Farm produces 100 tonnes of strawberries a year

As the Bath and West Show begins in Shepton Mallet, BBC Somerset looks at some of the issues facing people who live and work in the countryside.

One continuing issue is farmers trying to find reliable fruit pickers.

Peter Parris farms 1,500 acres of potatoes and soft fruit at Cutliffe Farm in Sherford near Taunton.

He says despite his efforts locally he depends on workers from eastern Europe as British people are reluctant to carry out this kind of work.

'Very seasonal'

"It grieves me because there could be 1,000 people unemployed in Taunton and we've done all sorts of things to encourage these people to work, but they just won't do it."

Throughout the year, seasonal workers are housed on site, in caravans with purpose built shower and toilet block, although planning permission is underway to build dormitories for workers.

"The soft fruit in particular is very seasonal, the peak is June, July. From September into October we are harvesting potatoes and in the early spring we are harvesting daffodils," said Peter.

Up to 80 people are employed during the high season over August and September with the farm producing around 100 tonnes of strawberries and 15 tonnes of raspberries every year.

Soft fruit manager, Duncan Nightingale said: "I remember one fruit season where we employed 160 English people to pick the crop.

"I don't think I saw them for many more than three or four days at a time and then we would have to retrain another one and they would say it's not for me, it's not for me, and that was the attitude."

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