Without doubt, the last 12 months have had a significant impact on everybody in the UK and across the world.
It has been a testing time for many and has challenged the resolve of even the toughest of communities.
The impact has also been felt here in the countryside with scores of people heading to the great outdoors for their daily exercise and a hard-earned escape from the confinement of lockdown.
Initially the general feeling was one of national unity and kindness, with most people smiling, waving and respecting each other and their surroundings.
However, as time has gone on this seems to have dwindled somewhat and exposed problems and disconnections between those who visit the countryside or have moved from town, and those of us who live and work here full-time.
Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in litter, open gates, dog attacks on livestock, off-road vehicles, trespassing and unwarranted complaints.
There has even been verbal abuse directed at farmers such as myself who are just trying to go about our daily work, looking after the environment while producing the nation’s much needed food.
I must admit that I am quite shocked by the levels of ignorance displayed, especially by the educated middle classes who have moved into the countryside, often buying up property that inadvertently forces local families out of the area.
They seem to want a nice big house but are unwilling to accept that they are surrounded by farming and food production which has been happening long before they arrived. The question is, how do we resolve this problem?
Farming and food production are changing rapidly with constant pressure on us environmentally, ethically and financially.
Machinery is increasing in size and farming businesses are often having to scale-up and become more progressive in order to survive.
This doesn’t always fit the picture postcard image the general public often expects to find, but it is very much the reality of modern farming.
Like many other producers in the UK, I try my hardest to operate to the highest standards with all of our produce being either Red Tractor or RSPCA Freedom Food assured.
These standards are not a given and require a high level of competence to be achieved, however the general public has little or no understanding of what meeting these standards involves.
I would be more than happy to help explain things such as why we graze lambs on winter cropping or apply pig manure to fields instead of using synthetic fertilisers, but I don’t feel that I’m being given the chance to do so.
Instead, these regulators seem more concerned with sending inspectors round multiple times, putting us all at risk of Covid-19 and wasting everybody’s precious time and money when the result is always ‘we can’t see anything wrong here’.
Much more needs to be done to explain how food production works. We need to go to even greater lengths than before to inform an evolving countryside demographic of farming’s place at the heart of communities and the public good that farming does.
Across our society, we should challenge what divides us and foster greater understanding.
At my farm, we are going to start by setting up an informative website and information boards to explain to the public what’s happening in our fields and why.
Any other suggestions would be more than welcome.