The fundamental importance of communication and co-operation to the development and success of the human race has become more apparent than ever during this pandemic.

I wrote a dissertation on agricultural co-operation at university, so I am not exactly a recent convert. I remember interviewing the founding chairman of Mearns and Angus Machinery Ring, Douglas Cargill, about it as a 21-year-old in 1992, not for one minute thinking that I would eventually become its proud chairman (now called Ringlink) 28 years later.

All of the organisations doing the heavy lifting in this crisis rely heavily on co-operation, either amongst themselves or with others, though they might not strictly be co-operatives.

Take NFUS as an example. The work their staff and office holders have put in to support Scottish agriculture in the past six weeks has been exceptional. As a very small cog in the wheel, I am able to see this first hand, and they are doing an immense job lobbying and arguing the case for farmers across Scotland on a very tight budget.

The staff and office holders have been working flat out to ensure farming continues to receive the support it deserves, not just during this short term crisis, but also in the long term, on huge issues like the upcoming trade deal with the EU and climate change.

Only around two-thirds of Scotland’s 14,500 farming businesses are members, however – and after the work we have done – I hope we have managed to convince some of the missing third to contribute and join. There is so much more we could do with that support.

I generally prefer using a carrot to a stick, but there must be some resentment building amongst paying members towards the freeloaders out there. It’s time they stood their hand.

A great example of communication and co-operation rolled into one is the campaign NFUS and Angus Growers started just over a month ago to recruit local seasonal workers through their web pages. We have offered work to many on our farm, though sadly we had to turn down the chap who applied from Kathmandu, in Nepal (too long a commute).

Just about the only professions not represented in the applications were butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

The first six people I spoke to as they started work one morning were Carol, a medical sales rep; Val, a lawyer; Stewart, an offshore electrician; Phillip, a picture framer; Alan, a barman; and Alice, a bouncer. Almost all of them were on furlough.

We were very glad to have them and I think they were glad to be here, but I am conscious that their old jobs will come back at some point and we could be left without a workforce. I don’t think I am being unfair either by saying that although they are very skilled at their day jobs, they are on a big learning curve when it comes to picking fruit, and our costs are inevitably going to be much higher.

We also have a pre-contracted workforce sitting waiting to come over from Eastern Europe. Many of these people have been coming for years and are highly skilled at what they do. They booked their flights back in January.

Most of them are planning to apply for pre-settled status this year, which will allow them to continue to come over and work in the years to come after the EU transition period ends in December. I think it would be deeply unfair to tell all of them they can’t come, particularly when they are very reliant upon this income.

Therefore, growers are trying to have a balanced approach, employing both local workers and returning workers from abroad. We have made a point of communicating with the both the press and Scottish Government about what we are planning to do, and they have been incredibly supportive. Many thanks to them all.

I never realised until now the importance of visual signals and body language when communicating. Lockdown has left us with a poor imitation of the real thing – we are now all Zoomers now. Zoom is the platform of choice for most meetings, with the notable exception of Scottish government, who prefer to do things the old-fashioned way by telephone conference. What are you hiding guys?

It’s the best visual platform out there, but the ease of use is in danger of making it overused. I guess it will all calm down eventually, but I have never had so many meetings in a month; meetings about social distancing and workforce in horticulture with Scottish government and Angus Growers; interviews with journalists about our efforts to recruit a workforce both home and abroad; plus meetings with the Ringlink team and board.

There is an end of school term feel about Zoom meetings. Normal rules don’t apply and isolation has had a marked effect on hair styling, as some of us choose to hold out till the end of lockdown for a proper cut, whereas others have taken the job in hand with, let’s be honest, mixed results.

Which brings me to the inaugural Zoom awards, with the following categories:

The ‘Most like Father Jack from Father Ted’ Award goes to A McCornick, our NFUS president, leading from the front as usual with some particularly impressive sideburns, coupled with ‘every which way but the right way’ hair. 'DRINK!'

In contrast, the Smartest Zoom Dresser Award goes to G Bruce, the Ringlink captain. The ‘barely there’ hair is immaculately groomed to within a quarter inch of its life and Graham infallibly attends all Zoom meetings dressed exactly as he would in face-to-face ones, wearing a proper shirt and tie. Something for the rest of us to aspire to.

Scruffiest Zoom Dresser is a toss up between S Walker, of NFUS, and S Walker, of Ringlink. They are not alone, and I’m not completely innocent, but absolutely all S Walkers wear T-shirts to all Zoom meetings.

The Ringlink Walker gets the nod here on account of his T-shirts usually being a particularly bright lurid green, or orange.

Best Pretend the Toddler isn’t There Award goes to N Dunn, who managed to give a complete rundown of AHDB activity to the NFUS Fruit and Veg working group whilst juggling her little one on her knee. Very impressive piece of multi-tasking Nicola.

Most Mobile Zoomer award goes to my brother Gus, who admirably won’t sit in an office for anyone and attends his meetings whilst marching up and down his fruit tunnels, giving random alternating views of his feet, his crops and the underside of his handsome chin.

Worst Haircut Award goes to W Porter senior. The only good thing one could say about the hatchet job my uncle John did on my father with his clippers was that it didn’t draw blood, though it was clearly a close-run thing in one patch at the back.

He has tried to distract attention from it by sprouting a Captain Mainwaring moustache, but it has only made things worse. I hope things get back to normal sooner rather than later so I can avoid a similar fate!