WITH THE Royal Highland Show cancelled for 2020, farmers are being urged to reach out to those they would normally spend this precious time of year with.

In support of RSABI’s #KeepTalking campaign to tackle loneliness and mental health in farming during lockdown, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland is asking all its members and would-be show visitors to pick up the phone to five people they would normally catch up with at the event.

RHASS chairman, Bill Gray, explained the #Phone5 Initiative: “The cancellation of the Royal Highland Show has left a huge hole in the agri-community’s social calendar and it will be greatly missed. It is important that we don’t lose sight of the importance of staying connected to old friends and acquaintances.

“While that would happen naturally during ‘show week’, we are forced to do things differently this year so instead of meeting in the ‘usual place’, we are encouraging farmers and the rural community to take the time to pick up the phone instead,” he continued. “If everyone was to do this, it would create a great feeling of goodwill which is very much needed at this time.”

Scotland’s livestock auctioneers – known for their ability to talk and well-kent presence in the farming community – have been recruited as ambassadors for the #KeepTalking campaign and have been hitting the phones since Thursday, June 18, with support from the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS) and other farming organisations.

“As auctioneers, we spend a lot of time talking to farmers and often act as a confidant, sounding board, business eye and friend,” said IASS president, Scott Donaldson. “It’s something we take extremely seriously because know that for farmers that chat in the yard or kitchen could be the only one they have that day, week, or even month.

“Right now, however, the pandemic has halted those face-to-face interactions, so we encourage everyone to pick up the phone to a neighbour, friend, or acquaintance – for your own health and their’s too.

“Let them know you’re there if they need,” continued Mr Donaldson. “And if you’re struggling, let people know – there is no shame in it and we all need to get better at sharing how we’re feeling.

“If talking to your peers is too much, ring your auctioneer who can point you to support services, or ring RSABI directly,” he urged. “Our auctioneers are always at the end of a phone if you need them and will be increasing the number of calls they make at this difficult time.”

The campaign will run until June 21, which would have been the final day of the RHS. Aside from phoning friends, people can get involved by following the #KeepTalking hashtag on social media.

Calls to RSABI for support almost doubled last month, and the number of people the charity is ringing regularly to break loneliness has gone up by 200%. If you would like to contact RSABI their phoneline is available seven days a week, 365 days a year, on 0300 111 4166.