Rathfinny was once a working arable farm on the South Downs in East Sussex but is now known for producing some of the world’s finest English sparkling wines. Their first 50 acres of vines were planted in April 2012 and all their grapes come from their single-site vineyard, spread over 600 acres. In addition to their winery, they have a restaurant and tasting room.
Rathfinny’s vines are set out on an ideal south-facing slope, just three miles from the English Channel where its unique micro-climate and the free-draining chalky soils. They are champions of Sussex sparkling wine and were instrumental in securing Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for Sussex wine.
As a BCorp, they care about their environmental, as well as the social and economic impact they have on their employees, community and the wider environment. Having met Mark Driver (joint owner) in late 2015, it was very apparent that he wanted a local workforce to harvest local grapes but was unsure of the viability of this (could we find what they needed and in the necessary numbers?) considering the rural location, type of work and demographic of the usual harvest worker.
What we did
It was agreed that we would work closely with Rathfinny and their highly knowledgeable vineyard manager to employ local workers for their first harvest. We scoped out what they needed in terms of skill set and numbers and set about finding these people from the local community. We used our usual source of candidates but also promoted them and ourselves on local radio stations, including our MD being interviewed on BBC Sussex.
We also used PR in magazines to enhance Rathfinny’s already fabulous reputation and get candidates excited about the prospect of local work for a local vineyard trying to break barriers and establish themselves as one of the largest producers of Sussex sparkling wine in the UK.
Our approach has been an unmitigated success. We initially placed a team of 20 temporary workers for the first harvest. Now, some seven years on, we are placing 150 workers and Rathfinny are lucky that they have many pickers return to work their harvest year after year.
Rathfinny also offer a fabulous lunch at the end of each harvest as a way to thank everyone for their efforts and hard work during the picking season at which workers can sample some of their superb sparkling wines. Although the vineyard is situated in a rural setting and is not easily commutable unless you live locally or possess your own transport, Rathfinny have such a good local reputation and their brand is now so well-known, that we comfortably manage to continue to support Rathfinny with their seasonal recruitment needs which continue to grow year upon year.
We continue to work with Rathfinny and often place employees in other areas of the business including bottling, accounts, hospitality and production. We value Rathfinny’s business and their continued loyalty to us and work hard to ensure that they are looked after really well at all times.