As 2020 began, who could have forecast what was about to hit us and the rest of the world.
In 2019 Christmas was good, with a great level of local support, especially here in Cornwall, with visitors staying in the county over the festive period and having the bonus of them spending their money locally.
In March, the better weather came but so did Covid-19 and the first lockdown. All we heard was these are ’unprecedented times’, and they certainly got that bit right.
Although we had lost all catering and hospitality trade, there was great demand for home deliveries created by panic buying, closure of certain shops and lack of availability for delivery slots provided by the major supermarkets.
This was a fantastic opportunity for local businesses not to be missed.
As a fifth generation butcher and grazier, my family has built the business since 1880 by doing just this. I offered free delivery within 15 miles of our farm with no minimum requirement, so that anybody who needed meat would not go without.
The weather was fantastic and nature had a chance to breathe again and, with farming momentum back in motion, people were taking advantage of the heat and dining alfresco.
We were busy and this went on steadily till the middle of June. By this time larger outlets of fast-food takeaways had started opening, supermarkets had caught up with their back-log deliveries and restrictions were starting to ease. Our home deliveries here in Cornwall had started to slow.
By July 4, Cornwall opened its gateway to the staycation crowd. The population of the county nearly trebled overnight and every layby and passing place was filled with motorhomes, caravans and campers waiting for the campsites and holiday parks to let them on.
The weather kept fine throughout the summer but changed in October, when the rain was back along with darker evenings and dropping temperatures. Covid-19 cases were also rising and we all knew what was coming next - lockdown 2.0.
This time there was no panic buying and supermarkets continued to open their doors and provide delivery slots. People’s freedom of movement was not restricted, the roads were still chaos and no one was told that they must stay at home.
This time I had lost all of my catering and hospitality customers but with the downfall of not much to replace it.
Uptake of home deliveries was very slow and no one was visiting the towns and villages because of the closure of coffee shops and non-essential retail that brought them in.
The first lockdown was so busy I did not have time to think about much or how this was affecting people, but this time round, I can see it. Was lockdown number two a true lockdown and was it worth the failure of so many businesses and the failure of so many people’s livelihoods?
I know this is a topic that can and will go on for forever, but I wonder if the second lockdown could have been dealt with in a better way, maybe a way that was a little more ‘smaller business, people’s livelihoods and mental health’ friendly.
Mental and physical health are so important, but when a pandemic like this happens it affects us in different ways. Loneliness and depression are two major players currently.
Even I have had times when I have started to feel a bit low and I know of some who have lost loved ones due to these difficult times. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay.
But the way I see it is we must help each other and, as farmers and producers, we must be proud of what we are achieving and keeping the nation fed.
Look to the positives and how we can embrace change for the better.