Guest View by Rev Chris Blackshaw

WHEN COVID-19 struck the country perhaps didn’t fully realise what implications it would have on everyday life until lockdown started, well perhaps farmers did but certainly the general public didn’t and some senior advisors to both Holyrood and Westminster Governments didn’t.

We farmers are used to the isolation and loneliness Covid-19 has brought to so many people, because we have had plenty of practice during the foot-and-mouth outbreaks. As a parish minister in Cumbria and part time agricultural chaplain for the county, I often listened to farmers recalling the terrors they still hold about foot-and-mouth and I wonder if Covid-19 will be the same.

The work of Ayrshire Farmers Church Support is being a visible presence at mainly Ayr mart and visiting farms to give help and support in any way we can and so when lockdown happened that had to stop but I knew the need for support would not. So I had to rethink how we could still support farmers whilst observing lockdown rules.

The answer was the telephone!

So I began the mammoth task (and perhaps never-ending task) of calling farmers in the South-west of Scotland, to see if they were OK and to offer help and support in any way. Currently, I have made just more than 600 calls to farmers and their families and I have been really touched by their gratitude to the Church of Scotland for taking the time to think of them and to get in touch to offer help and support.

I have had some moving and sad conversations, which have touched on issues related to depression, worries over milk prices, bereavements, domestic violence and many more subjects. To be able to spend time listening to people’s concerns is a privilege and I feel honoured that farmers and their families feel they can share their concerns with me.

Mental health, thank goodness, has now become easier to talk about, thanks to the openness and support of many high profile celebrities and Royalty. Men, and particularly farmers, are not very good talking about their feelings but I’m pleased to find that this is slowly changing and conversations are beginning to happen.

A few weeks ago it was good to read in The SF about Bobby Stevenson’s battle with depression and the steps he took to help himself. This was a moving account of his personal battle, but he is not alone – there are many farmers in Scotland who feel the same.

So, don’t remain silent and bottle it up, there is always someone who you can turn to and share your feelings with.

What does life, post Covid-19, hold? I hope and pray that we can get back to normality soon and that we can resume life with a more positive family and community focussed attitude.

I believe that from every life experience good or bad we learn something that will help us in the future. It may not seem like it at the time though.

But as bad as Covid-19 is it has also given us new opportunities. A number of farmers, myself included, have begun supplying the public direct with beef, lamb, pork and eggs; new businesses are springing up selling raw milk.

People are becoming aware of the benefits of locally supplied produce. Some butchers are again seeing a resurgence in footfall into their shops, something that has been long overdue.

Ayrshire Farmers Church Support has now been in existence for nearly three years and the pilot project is proving highly successful. We are now considering how to expand and grow the project.

We hope to start expanding out into other marts across Scotland, beginning in the South-west and maybe as far North as Stirling. But to do this we need help from people within the farming community.

Are you a farmer who is passionate about helping others and feel you have a gift of listening and communication and also a faith? Can you spare time to visit your local mart in these areas that I’ve mentioned to offer help and support to farmers who may be struggling and need someone to talk to?

If you feel that you would like to be involved in our work then please contact me on 07980 975062 to have a conversation about what we do or you can email me at

Take care and God bless.