By Barbara Shaw

LIKE EVERYBODY else, I thought 2020 had so much to offer. My best year yet, my calendar full with events, I thought it was going to fly by like no other. Now in 2021 and almost at the end of January, I can’t quite believe it. 2020 is a year so many of us would like to forget and here's to hoping this year has more in store than last.

I think it’s safe to say that if we were told this time last year, there was a possibility of the coronavirus having us enter a second full lockdown no one would have believed it. Yet here we are almost a year on almost feeling like we have taken a step backwards, many people, businesses and charities struggling with further sad news of local shows being cancelled for a second year running.

Last year brought about some new personal challenges of my own. Working from home is not something I thought I would ever do on a full-time basis, it used to be a novelty. Yet I found working from home a struggle. I took for granted going into the office, mixing with colleagues, and bouncing off one another as we used to.

At the same time, our own succession plans were coming into place. My brother Duncan and I had just taken over the family arable farming business from our Dad after 35 years. As a family, we have found out over the last few years that things are better out in the open rather than not being spoken about. So much more can be accomplished together – a problem shared is a problem halved. We always knew this was going to be a challenge and a big step up, but we didn’t foresee the year that lay ahead. On top of that, siblings working together brings about its own set of challenges, so we both try to work to our strengths. I’m more “the back office” and he’s more the “front of house" type, but we are fortunate to have a great team to help us through this transition.

By writing this article, it has given me the chance to address the stigma surrounding mental health. This is something which is now much more openly spoken about, however, we are only going to get past it by raising more awareness and speaking more honestly and openly. It is important for everyone to know that there is always someone to talk to, the hardest part is reaching out to say you need help. Farming charity RSABI offers a wealth of support and services.

During lockdown it is very easy to get into the routine of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’. Agriculture is well known for being a lonely industry with many people seeing and speaking to no one in their working day. On top of this, some call farming their only hobby. It is known that by doing some exercise or having a hobby boosts your mental health, no matter how busy it is, it is important to set aside some time in your week for whatever it is you enjoy.

In November, I joined the SAYFC Movember team, this involved doing 60km over the course of the month to represent the 60 men we lose to suicide each hour, every hour, across the world. By getting involved in this we managed to raise awareness and a fantastic amount of money. I also found it boosted my own mental attitude, made me feel part of a team, albeit doing it yourself, and made me push myself to do more. Lastly, make the time which I could so easily have been “too busy” for.

I would therefore like to encourage those who have not yet signed up to Doddie’s AID which has been running for the month of January and into the first week of February to do so. This poses as an excellent opportunity to be part of a team, and you’ll find you gain so much more than you set out to, by being a part of something like this. To sign up, register at

On a final note, please do remember at a time like this, we should be especially mindful of those around us, and take the time to check in on our family and friends, a phone call or a message simply to ask ‘are they okay?’ Even the ‘happy strong’ ones, you never know who is in need of some help. It’s the small things that matter more than anything, a number of people have now spent long periods of time separated from friends and family. But as the days start to stretch, we would all do well to remember the words of Captain Tom Moore “things will get better. The sun will shine again, the birds will sing, and we’ll all have a lovely day tomorrow”.