The loss of Scotland’s agricultural shows this year is a huge blow to the farming sector and has left many of the smaller events concerned about the future. In this void of gatherings, there was a small ray of light when the Greatest Online Agricultural Show ran in early May. Founded and run by David Hill, an estate manager from Berkshire, the event attracted close to 50,000 show visits and raised over £16,000 for farming charities, including RSABI.

This year the team at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) will greatly miss the opportunity to engage directly with our farmers. Shows including the Royal Highland Show provide and excellent platform for us to meet farmers, listen to concerns, plus talk about the work QMS is undertaking.

Not wanting to lose this valuable two-way dialogue, we’ve taken to our phones since lockdown, speaking to farmers the length and breadth of the country to hear how Covid-19 is affecting them. It’s certainly not a replacement to meeting in person, however it’s been both important and very informative.

The overarching sentiment is the recognition that, while there have been many challenges, our sector has been more fortunate than many other industries. Many have expressed thanks to the government, QMS, the marts and abattoirs for their part in keeping the red meat supply chain operating, particularly given news from countries like the US, where many processing facilities have closed.

While farming operations have largely continued as normal, allowing primary food production to continue, it’s not surprising that the economic reality, and issues around low margins from livestock production, are still very real and never too far from the forefront of farmers’ minds.

For many, thoughts are now turning to post-Covid, the “green recovery”, “Brexit” and what the “new normal” may be.

Many expressed hope, as well as the need to try and ensure that the public’s increased awareness of food supply chains will translate into long-term sourcing of local food whenever possible. One farmer said that the public do not need to applaud farmers just now, but rather to support us by buying local after lockdown ends. Many also said they need more clarity on what a tailored support package might be to replace the current CAP schemes.

A number mentioned the fall in global greenhouse gas emissions during the pandemic, suggesting that, as an industry, it’s starkly clear that this has happened while farming and food production has continued. They all suggested that the timing could be crucial for livestock producers, and the wider farming sector, in informing positive debate about farming’s role in climate change mitigation, rather than denigrating agriculture as being responsible for it.

QMS are working in collaboration with our key stakeholders to form a strategy for local supply on shelf both supporting our farmers and the environment.

Those who have seen or heard the ‘Make It’ promotion for Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork on TV, radio and social media, have been very supportive. We have wholehearted recognition on every phone call about the need to raise awareness of our Scotch meat brands, particularly by sharing on social media.

The parting words from two farmers resonated the most with me and the wider team, we are all in this together and we need to pull together until we get out the other side.