STUDENTS across Romsey are being urged by a youth organisation to apply for farming jobs in an effort to help feed the nation amid coronavirus.

Now Youth in Romsey, Southampton Road, are appealing to people over 18-years-old to help pick homegrown crops before they perish after farmers usual workforce declined due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

A spokesperson from Youth in Romsey said: "We understand with the coronavirus outbreak many people have lost their jobs or stopped working and this creates both financial challenges and difficulties with mental health.

"Our aim in posting about jobs during this period is to combat both of these issues.

"We hope that encouraging people to keep active and busy in jobs where their help is needed specifically due to staff shortages or in this case, harvesting crops which is essential for the UK, will do just that.

"We are fully committed to and in agreement that social distancing needs to be kept strictly in place to prevent further spread of the virus, so the work opportunities we promote at this time will be those advertised in response to demand created by the impacts of coronavirus."

Community leaders in Test Valley also backed the youth organisation's message, stressing it is "vital farms get fruit and vegetables into shops" as shoppers continue to pile into supermarkets.

Romsey town centre manager, Mark Edgerley, said: "It is good that people are coming forward to do the jobs because it is absolutely vital that farms get crops into shops and it is clear there are not going to be as many temporary retail jobs in the summer.

"It is a good opportunity for students to get out into the fresh air and it goes back to when I was a child and we lived in Somerset because we used to go to blackberry fields with Mum and Dad and that is how we earnt our pocket money.

"You are also helping people who cannot help themselves, I know old and vulnerable people will still need fresh produce and it amazes me how much is grown around the Romsey area and at Whiteparish."

Cllr Dorothy Baverstock, who represents Romsey Cupernham on the borough council, said: "I think it is a really good idea because I am a farmer's daughter myself and there was always a problem getting part-time workers when I was a child.

"Now it is going to be absolutely crucial as we need all the fruit and vegetables we can get; it is intensive manual work and I think any young people who could be involved would find it is great experience for them, particularly as they can get out in the sun.

"There are always things like lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber which have a very short shelf life and if they do not get picked at their optimum nobody wants to buy them because they get tough."

Cllr Mark Cooper, who represents Romsey Tadburn, said: "Everyone, of whatever age group, needs to think outside the box as to how they can contribute to their society during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

"There's certainly a tradition and history of migrant workers moving out from the cities to become seasonal harvesters; but I would suggest that most farming jobs nowadays, on modern agricultural holdings, whether it's harvesting, operating machinery or dealing with livestock, needs to have some experience."