Farmer Focus: Covid scare got me thinking about small business

We have had a very difficult month in the shop, as we had to close for two weeks due to Covid-19.

My wife and I, as well as three of our kids, all tested positive, and then two of our butchers had family members test positive.

With only one member of staff not isolating, as she was on holiday, I was left with no alternative but to close.

As you can imagine, closing like this with no chance to prepare caused quite a backlog and wasted stock. It has taken us well over a week to catch up with deliveries.

See also: Second Covid lockdown raises fears of fly-tipping surge

Something like this really brings into focus just how hard it must be for those many small businesses that have been forced to close with little warning.

All the big chains and stores have found a way to stay open. A clothes store on our high street is apparently still open because it sells bedding, which is “essential”.

All these poor people in pubs, restaurants and small family businesses like my barber have been forced to close again, and, apart from being financially catastrophic, it must be soul-destroying to see the big boys still open, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

A pal of mine decided it wasn’t worth opening his restaurant as a lot of his margin is from the sale of alcohol and, without it, it just isn’t viable.

Like us, many of these businesses make a surplus over Christmas that keeps them afloat during the quiet months of January, February and March. While we can still operate, many can’t and won’t be able to survive.

As an industry, red meat producers think we have it tough, but frankly, many of us haven’t been worse off because of the pandemic. We have benefited from the higher prices for our lamb and beef.

So, when you do go out to shop, rather than go to the multimillion-pound supermarket, why not consider your small, local, independent shop, which is just trying to make a living like us?

It’s stunning the selection these places have. So why not eat local, shop local and support local in your community. PS. We all had very mild symptoms and have now made a full recovery.

Michael Shannon finishes 150 head of mostly Angus beef stores each year and runs 280 Scotch Mules on a 100ha forage-only enterprise near Biggar, Lanarkshire, as well as free-range turkeys for Christmas. Meat is sold through his online business and farm shop Damn Delicious, with surpluses sold deadweight.