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Joyce Campbell: It might be time to take a page out of Paddington Bear’s book

Keep it simple: Have we in the red meat sector been clouding our message by trying to be too clever? Dear old Paddington has an answer for that.

We’ve made it through the busy spring work of lambing and calving, and in the words of the song from Samuel Jack, “It Feels Like Summer”.

The grass is growing, the sun is shining and the lambs and calves are growing like mushrooms.

I completely tuned out from the news over the past couple of months. I did ask during coffee breaks in the lambing shed for updates, especially on the war in Ukraine, but otherwise I concentrated on what I could control.

Little seems to have changed in my two-month hiatus. Putin and the Russian army continues on their bloody campaign in Ukraine, Boris is still clinging with his fingernails to power in Number 10, while the cost of food, fuel and power continues to rise at alarming rates.

I didn’t think I was much of a royalist

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations brought some welcome cheer.

I’m bad for moaning about a few weeks’ hard labour over lambing, but it’s absolutely nothing to the dedication the Queen has given the country over the past 70 years without complaint.

Joyce Campbell’s lambs are “growing like mushrooms”.

I didn’t think I was much of a royalist, so I’ve surprised myself.

Who would have thought that putting the Queen and Paddington Bear together, having tea and discussing marmalade sandwiches, would be such a winning combination?

It was simple and it hooked me in.

Hard to balance cost of production against what consumers can afford

It also made me think about the marketing surrounding our own red meat sector. Are we trying to be too clever and losing our message with too much noise and detail? It’s never good when you have to start explaining your punchline.

On Saturday night as I was watching the Queen and Paddington on the TV, there were legs of Scotch lamb in our local Thurso Tesco store being sold off at half price.

Discounted meat for a simple soul like me means it’s just not shifting.

For a sheep farmer, that sets alarm bells ringing. It’s hard to balance the rapidly rising cost of production against what consumers can afford to pay.

How that’s pitched will not be easy, but I suppose that’s why we pay our QMS levies.

I don’t envy their task. While those of us at the coalface can all be encouraged to pitch in and spread the message around the Scotch lamb and beef brands to friends and on social media, the reality is that there’s only so much we can do on an individual level.

Real and relatable

It’s worth taking a look at Jeremy Clarkson’s Instagram for great tips on how not taking himself too seriously works in his favour.

His latest venture has him advertising lager made from his own barley – and it’s good.

He’s seen talking about a field of barley, only to be told it’s wheat! Maybe we’re needing to lose the slick and become more like Jeremy and Paddington: real and relatable.

The farming papers and supplements are filled with great pictures from the agricultural show circuit, farm visits and events which have bounced back after the past couple of years of Covid-affected summers.

The enforced isolation of the past two years has been hard on many within farming who already spend long hours working alone, and the farming community looks ready to make up for lost time, enjoying meeting up, socialising and having some fun over summer.

Sadly, I never made it to last week’s Scotsheep at Over Finlarg Farm. Everyone I’ve spoken to who went along said it was a great success – well attended and well organised, with a great show of livestock from Hazel and Robert McNee.

Congratulations to everyone involved.

We have an overseas trip planned to the North Uist Show in July. Ian’s judging the cattle, and I’m doing the sheep. This trip was planned pre-Covid and had to be reorganised, so we are both looking forward to our summer holiday trip to the west.


Joyce Campbell farms at Armadale on the north coast.

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