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Jo Mackenzie: Farmers don’t save lives, but are vital for nation’s health

Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows.
Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows.

It is beginning to feel a lot like Groundhog Day – here we are again, back at the kitchen table for online learning and working from home.

I am fortunate the girls are remarkably accepting of the ongoing restrictions and that their teachers at Mulbuie continue to provide such excellent virtual learning and support; and the truth is that, for now, I feel happier having them safe at home.

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to coorie in, including all the essential, key and frontline workers, to whom we are indebted – particularly those working across the NHS.

My hard-working other half joked during the first lockdown that he is an essential worker, too, and although said in jest I think he has a point.

Nick and all farmers are a vital cog in the health and wellbeing of the nation, albeit they are not saving lives.

Here at Rootfield, Nick and our valued team tend the herd, produce and process the milk and dairy products for our farm shop as well as local shops across the Black Isle and Inverness.

Our milk also enables Highland Fine Cheeses to produce their range of cheeses and butter to sell locally and across the UK.

During lockdown, only essential shopping for provisions and medicines is allowed, so farming and food production is essential.

Obviously a lot of the foods found in supermarkets, corner shops and delis are imported from overseas – don’t get me wrong, I’d be lost without pasta and passata or fresh ginger, limes and glorious autumnal-hued spices for curries.

But for daily staples such as fresh bread, milk, eggs and seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as fully traceable and high welfare meats and poultry, homegrown grains and sustainably sourced seafood, artisan crafted beers, gins and whiskies, Scotland’s food and drink producers are vital.

Farming doesn’t stop for Covid-19 and with reduced subsidies resulting from Brexit, it’s even more pertinent to have a sustainable agricultural sector and access to homegrown food and drink.

On a micro level, the pandemic has proved good for our milk business – a gloomy silver lining for which we are nevertheless grateful, particularly as so many other industries and businesses are struggling.

We have found that going back into lockdown has seen folk once again turn away from the supermarkets and their big weekly shops, favouring instead local food shops and producers, coming every few days for fresh foodstuffs such as milk, yoghurt, bread and eggs.

Much like others have said before, the reality and result of living through a pandemic has triggered a reset.

What really is important in life has dramatically – or sometimes subtly –changed, or at least come into focus for many of us.

This might be our work-life balance and how we spend our time, a greater sense of our local community, the quality and quantity of relationships we have, the exercise and activities we do, a heightened awareness of the fragility of life, our environmental impact, or the food and drink we consume, to name a handful.

To many, it may well be a matter of simply surviving – financially, mentally or physically.

The impact of the pandemic on all walks of life has been overwhelming, to say the least. The loss suffered by so many has been unspeakably sad, be that from Covid or serious illnesses that may have been missed because of it.

After almost a year of upheaval and uncertainty, this new year I’ve resolved to take each day as it comes and keep holding my family close. Stay safe everyone.

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