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

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 nfuonline.com 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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