FW Opinion: Let’s keep Christmas greetings going all year

For many, farming is a lonely occupation even at the best of times.

After a Christmas like no other, I want to thank everyone that made extra time to stop and talk to friends and neighbours during the past two weeks.

Whether by phone or from one socially distanced cab to another, the simple act of asking “How are you?” or sharing a problem can profoundly improve the course of someone’s day.

See also: Debate: Zoom meetings – love them or loathe them?

About the author

Andrew Meredith
Editor, Farmers Weekly

E: andrew.meredith@markallengroup.com
T: @Merry_Meredith

Read more articles by Andrew Meredith

As is traditional in January, much effort will be spent in the weeks that lie ahead on attempting to break old habits and forge new ones.

When I first joined Farmers Weekly, my Herculean battle was to stop eating between breakfast and lunch.

“Bait” is an essential 10am meal in Radnorshire, and my father and mother will not go a day without it.

While a pleasant fuelling stop for hard-working sheep farmers, I realised in London it was making me handle a bit too well over the back.

The sandwich and hefty slice of fruit cake had to go.

Weeks of cravings and gastrointestinal rumbling passed, but my eventual success happily allowed me to avoid forging the new habit of buying larger pairs of trousers on a regular basis.

Of course, this is a minor battle compared to what farmers have had to face in the past 12 months.

But even after a difficult year, their most remarkable habit is to keep putting another seed in the ground or the ram back in with the ewes and having another go.

Nowhere is this resilience shown more clearly than in the results of the latest Farmers Weekly Sentiment Survey, which 700 readers answered in November.

In a year during which the sector endured coronavirus and another dose of Brexit uncertainty, a whopping 69% of respondents still managed to rate 2020 as either great, good or so-so for their business.

The food sector as a whole deserves a lot of credit for how it worked together last year to shrug off much of the impact of coronavirus, no doubt helping that number.

Looking ahead, 42% of respondents say they are either optimistic or very optimistic about prospects for their farming businesses over the next two years.

This compares with 32% who were pessimistic or very pessimistic.

By the time this is published, it will be known if the UK and EU succeeded in agreeing on the terms of a free-trade deal.

The 48-hour border closure between Britain and France to stop the spread of the coronavirus may offer a taste of the disruption to come.

The closure of the Port of Dover, a vital conduit for British produce journeying to Europe, had an immediate effect on lamb prices.

Farmers cannot live on hope alone, but the sector will need every crumb of that optimistic, can-do spirit seen in the survey to withstand the rest of the battle with coronavirus and negotiate the effects of political turbulence.

There will need to be more of the innovation that helped supply chains adapt so rapidly last year, and the renewed goodwill earned from keeping consumers’ tables full may come in very handy.

In this unpleasant era when we are forced to spend as much time as possible apart, let us also carry the Christmas habit of making time for a greeting into the months to come.

If there is darkness ahead, I trust it will make the flame of community spirit burn even brighter.

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