With the busy drilling spell moving seamlessly into the busy hill lambing spell this year, along with some of the tattie boys, I’m probably in the minority in not screaming out for some rain – yet!

While the simple act of wondering aloud just how such a wet winter could turn into such a dry spring might in itself be enough to tempt fate, the rush through the last few weeks of spring without any down days due to rain has probably been more than enough to divorce – or at least insulate – a lot of us from the most noticeable effects of the lockdown.

I do find myself wondering, though, just how we’re going to cope once we do get a chance to draw breath and lift our noses from the grindstones for long enough to have look around? We might realise that all the small distractions and rewards which mark the progress of the year, and which we tend to unconsciously work towards, simply aren’t going to be there in any recognisable form.

To be honest, I’ve never been a great one for attending agricultural shows, having spent too many Saturdays trying to track down the owner of the reserve champion in some obscure sheep section (who was undoubtedly enjoying the sort of delights offered by a crowded beer tent which were denied to a hard-working reporter up against a deadline), has put paid to that.

But somehow knowing that these annual events – many of which had been a feature of local farming calendars for more than a hundred years – were still out there and that the tradition was being carried on (by someone else!) has always been the source of some small measure of comfort.

While the delights of the livestock lines at the local show might never have appealed to many arable farmers, the annual round of crop trials and other field events where you could get first-hand experience of how the newest varieties, the latest fertiliser regimes, novel crop chemicals and the shiniest pieces of new machinery and other innovative kit will undoubtedly be missed.

That’s because there’s no getting away from the fact that we do like to keep up with the latest developments and to drool over the latest boys’ toys.

However, the virtual world – and those who have spied its strengths as a marketing tool for pulling the customers in – have, predictably, been stepping forward in recent weeks, though, with a plethora of groups, organisations and collaborations, normally led by some ultra-keen PR group, all promising to fill this void in our lives with virtual farm walks, on-line conferences, Zoom meetings, webinars, podcasts and Facetime seminars.

So, will this willingness to step up to the plate – or more likely the hand-held digital camera with dodgy audio output – fill that gap which will undoubtedly see us looking around for information, advice and, let’s be honest here, maybe even a wee bit of entertainment?

The annual traffic jam which seems to be so closely associated with the Cereals Event, will, for once be devoid of this particular curse. It was one of the first to announce that it would be moving to an on-line platform this year, renaming itself Cereals LIVE.

Whether it will have the same wider appeal to draw in the general public as has been enjoyed by Lambing Live might remain a moot point.

“Whether farmers are looking to know more about data driven innovation, precision farming, plant breeding developments or sustainable crop health, Cereals Live has a range of webinars lined-up in its DIT theatre to inform and enlighten,” event director, Alli McEntyre, enthused in a press release last week.

It has to be said, though, that a big part of the attraction of events like these – and even at the likes of the Highland – is the opportunity to interact with the suppliers and manufacturers who normally exhibit at these sorts of affairs (normally about 360 at the Cereals event alone).

Face-to-face meetings give us the opportunity to metaphorically walk round, kick the tyres and take in the lustrous shine on products ranging from the latest advances in everything from seeds to sprayers, crop varieties to cultivation equipment and fertiliser to finance.

Even while the seminars might be delivered into the comfort of our own homes, I doubt if I’m alone in finding that it’s sometimes too easy for my attention to be diverted towards making a cup of coffee, letting the dog out, or catching the postie – all of which distractions are missing, even in a roasting hot (or alternatively soaking wet) tent in the middle of a field.

And that is to say nothing of the involuntary interruptions caused by the country’s already dodgy rural internet provision being even further overloaded by remote schooling and those who are either working or not working from home.

For, in country areas at least, the demands of both Netflix and cloud-based Excel packages often find themselves competing for the tiny element of space available on narrow-gauge copper wires which were in all probability first installed back in the days when a 12-word telegram would be enough to stress the system.

But while I’m maybe in danger of sounding too cynical about the abilities of the internet to provide a platform to help us through this spell, I wouldn’t want to dismiss it totally. I just think that it’s going to be difficult to fulfill all the functions of a whole plethora of social interactions over this medium, despite all the gushing reviews of numerous PR people.

Now maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think that there’s a tendency for things put out over the ‘net to take themselves a bit too seriously and to be just a tad too worthy.

The knowing, conspiratorial glances, the raised eyebrows, the eyes rolling heavenwards which are often shared with other members of the audience as a speaker goes on for too long, or as a question from the audience shows that the point of the talk has been totally missed, can play a hugely important part in the overall experience and enjoyment of these events.

For all I know such a thing might exist, but surely there is a need for an app which allows some quiet levity and a wee bit of irreverence to be injected into these events – and to effectively allow those of us who prefer to sit up the back of the class and mock the teacher the ability to emulate the whispered comment, or the hastily scribbled note passed around while the teacher’s back is turned ...


The Scottish Farmer remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of Covid-19.

If you are unable to get out to pick up your weekly read, please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £35 - or consider a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months.

To arrange either follow this link:


Thanks – and stay safe