The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Daily rit­u­als go on and keep our fo­cus on fu­ture

Diver­si­fi­ca­tion: Lo­cal shop­ping trends bode well Jo Macken­zie writes about life on the Black Isle, on one of the few re­main­ing dairy farms op­er­at­ing in the north of Scot­land

- ■ Jo lives with hus­band Nick, a dairy farmer and their daugh­ters Daisy and Mol­lie, at Root­field Farm Agriculture · Industries · Inverness · United Kingdom · Jamie Oliver · Beauly

The peren­ni­ally shift­ing route map out of lock­down seems to be chang­ing daily, but the rit­u­als of day-to­day farm­ing go on al­most as if in a pre-coro­n­avirus bub­ble.

An­nual IACS forms have been com­pleted, grass fields re­seeded and first cut silage har­vested, packed and cov­ered – the qual­ity par­tic­u­larly high this year thanks to the glo­ri­ous spell of sun­shine in May. Nick is also see­ing the ben­e­fits of re­de­ploy­ing the farm team re­source back in April.

Hard-work­ing em­ployee Ian is now run­ning the young dairy stock and 500head sheep hold­ing south of In­ver­ness be­long­ing to Nick’s father, Dereck, re­duc­ing the Root­field monthly wage bill.

Mean­while here, Nick has in­creased emerg­ing tal­ent Scott’s re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. This has pre­dom­i­nantly in­cluded vi­tal on-farm trac­tor work – jobs pre­vi­ously con­tracted out such as plough­ing and cul­ti­va­tion – and Scott mak­ing use of a smart sys­tem that cal­cu­lates ex­actly where, when and how much fer­tiliser to spread in each field.

Be­yond the farm bound­aries, roads have be­come no­tice­ably busier since en­ter­ing Phase 1 out of lock­down, yet we have seen the vol­ume of traf­fic to the farm hon­esty shed drop slightly.

And our friends and lo­cal part­ner sup­pli­ers have ex­pe­ri­enced the same trend, pos­si­bly as peo­ple re­turn to their pre­vi­ous su­per­mar­ket shop­ping habits.

How­ever, it is the in­cred­i­ble re­silience and re­source­ful­ness of busi­nesses around us, from delis and restau­rants to one of our favourite in­de­pen­dent gift shops – the Old School Beauly – that have in­spired us to forge ahead with plans to ex­tend and im­prove our own re­tail arm of the busi­ness.

Lo­cal farms, food pro­duc­ers and re­tail­ers have of­fered a life­line to folk, es­pe­cially those in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, who have been shield­ing or felt un­safe shop­ping in su­per­mar­kets dur­ing lock­down.

We want to keep mak­ing our­selves ap­peal­ing and rel­e­vant to cus­tomers – new and reg­u­lar – and like the soft fruit farm, veg grower, high street butcher, fish van and ar­ti­san baker, of­fer lo­cal al­ter­na­tives to pro­duce flown thou­sands of miles across the world, avail­able year-round, with long shelf lives, grown with chem­i­cals or pro­duced to lower wel­fare stan­dards than are ad­hered to across the Bri­tish Isles.

To this end, Nick and I both re­cently signed the NFU pe­ti­tion to lobby the gov­ern­ment to set up a trade, food and farm­ing stan­dards com­mis­sion and “put laws in place that pre­vents im­ports of food that is pro­duced in ways that are il­le­gal in the UK”. See nfuon­ for more in­for­ma­tion and to sign the pe­ti­tion.

Pub­licly cham­pi­oned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the pe­ti­tion aims to pro­tect Bri­tish fam­ily farms and it now has more than one mil­lion sig­na­tures.

Now more than ever, shop­ping lo­cal is per­ti­nent – for taste, nu­tri­tional value and to ad­dress food miles and en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age; for farm­ing in­tegrity, safe­guard­ing an­i­mal wel­fare and con­sumer con­fi­dence, and for eco­nomic rea­sons.

 ??  ?? KEEP­ING ON: In­spired by the re­source­ful­ness of lo­cal busi­nesses, Jo is keen to ex­tend the farm’s re­tail arm
KEEP­ING ON: In­spired by the re­source­ful­ness of lo­cal busi­nesses, Jo is keen to ex­tend the farm’s re­tail arm

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