The world is a different place to what it was just a month ago, and this is a different column to that which I would normally write.
Food standards, security, sustainability and the need for a good departure from the EU – all remain vital issues, but are parked for now in deference to the need for an unprecedented global response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the time being, farmers and government will work together – as always in times of national crisis – for the good of the nation, until the threat has passed.
The question I wish to pose, however, is: “How are you?”.
The farming community has been through the mill these past three years; from genuine business concerns over the impact of Brexit and future legislative arrangements, to the devastating effects of climate change, to the relentless assaults on our industry by so-called environmentalists and celebrities, the media and even our own government.
We’ve had a time of it, but we forge on.
Take some time to think about yourself; how are you feeling, really? Are you carrying a burden which would be better shared? There’s absolutely no shame in it. Lightening the load can positively affect all areas of your life
The automatic response is always to say: “I’m fine.” Most are. Some who aren’t may even believe they are. But the Covid-19 crisis has introduced yet another element to the pressures on many in our industry.
Agriculture may be less affected than some sectors by the current restrictions and worries, but we’re all human; we all have frailties; we can all suffer from isolation; we all worry about the future.
Myself, I recently broke down before a dozen strangers on a professional development course. This, I must add, is unusual for me.
We’d been invited to conduct some personal self-analysis – not something I’d ever devoted much thought to.
A remarkable convergence of events that week exposed in me feelings which I realised had been consuming me for more than a decade, slowly filling me with self-doubt and recrimination.
I’m grateful to have experienced this enlightening opportunity – and for the invaluable support of my understanding course-mates.
I am fine. But my point is this: first, take some time to think about yourself; how are you feeling, really? Are you carrying a burden which would be better shared? There’s absolutely no shame in it. Lightening the load can positively affect all areas of your life.
Second, reach out to those around you. Check that they’re okay. You never know who might be struggling, or what help you might be able to offer.
Third, be kind, especially online. You don’t know what issues people are dealing with behind the computer screen.
As an industry, we’ve become much better at talking about mental health in recent years. It’s no longer a taboo subject, and the number of charities available to help farmers through difficult situations is constantly expanding.
NFU president Minette Batters has been showing compassionate and commendable leadership on this issue too, vigorously highlighting the consequences of careless criticism of farmers by, especially, the national media.
I know many members were genuinely heartened to receive something as simple, but heartfelt, as her recent voice message reassuring them that the NFU was there to help them through this difficult time in our national life. Small gestures can mean a lot.
So look after yourselves. Look after each other. Ask for help if you need it. Give help willingly if asked. And always, always, be kind.