WHAT a rollercoaster Scottish farming finds itself upon!

Look through this edition of The Scottish Farmer, and you’ll find good news alongside bad, optimism alongside pessimism, and nostalgia page-to-page with future-gazing.

Of course, the industry is built upon the cycle of birth, growth and death, and however exceptional we may feel these current times to be, I know from perusing the bound volumes of TSF’s stretching back to the 1900s that the nation’s farmers have often found themselves poised between continuity and change, progress and preservation, failure and fortune.

True, there won’t have been a time in recent memory when our hills have been so stripped of stock, creating a genuine crisis of confidence up there, but at last we have the promise (albeit a political promise) of a cash injection, and the prospect of a long term rebalancing of the rural economy to offer greater rewards to the uplands, whether it be for the food they produce or the environmental good they provide.

And Brexit, for all its threats and traumas, is if nothing else a mighty stir to the stagnant pot of UK farm policy, which if we are honest wasn’t doing our forward-thinking farmers many favours long before leaving the EU was even a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s gimlet eye.

Sure, the peril facing our sheep finishers is extreme, given the market’s reliance on exports to the EU, but livestock producers must also take heart that there is a growing awareness of Scottish provenance at home, whether it be in the aisles of retail stars like Aldi and Lidl, or the growing number of local authorities signing up to source Scottish produce for their school meals through the Soil Association’s ‘Food For Life’ initiative.

Certainly, someone let the spirit of optimism loose at the Kelso Ram Sales, where prices were up across the board, albeit on slightly reduced numbers. That is not the sign of an industry in retreat – rather more like one preparing for a fight!

Similarly, our doughty legion of arable farmers have once again been through Mother Nature’s wringer, enduring the knotted stomachs of early September, when the rains fell and hopes of a home-run harvest season faded – but as I write, the hoped-for dry week continues, and the industry is doing what it does best; putting its back into the work and getting it done, while the going is good!

Us agri-hacks can get caught up in the political dramas of the day, or the do-or-die crises inflicted on our readership by the weather, and lose sight of the quiet, inexorable progress being made by our entrepreneurs, scientists and administrators; for example, this week, we have Speyside’s Elchies farm-butchers lauded for producing possibly the tastiest mutton known to man; and ScotEID unveiling a revolutionary cattle traceability system to save farmers time whilst boosting Scotch provenance. These folk have their shoulder to the wheel, as do many more out there, come what may.