Many of us are ready to see the back of lockdown. Whether it is the chance to meet friends, head to the pub, attend an agricultural show or just get back to some form or normality, the realities of lockdown are wearing thin for most.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, of course, with restrictions starting to ease and some of the major events on the summer calendar, for example the Great Yorkshire Show, still planning to go ahead and give a boost to people’s spirits.
While farming has not been as badly affected as many industries, it has not been immune to the impact of Covid-19 on daily life. One of the most noticeable changes has been in auction marts across the country as, while sales have continued, the sparsely populated ringsides have been a stark reminder of these strange times.
And yet the value of the marts to many in agriculture have been highlighted like never before during the pandemic. Not only have prices boomed for most types of livestock over the past year, but the marts’ crucial role in being a counterweight to the power of the large processors has been reinforced.
With local butchers’ shop seeing their trade soar during the pandemic, the marts have played a vital role in providing an outlet for farmers and their stock, as well as servicing the needs of a supply chain that was quick to adapt to the closure of out of home eating.
Marts have had adapted, too, with new technology and online trading ensuring that drop and go facilities for stock did not mean vendors were totally out of the loop when the gavel was raised. The next step, depending on the vaccine rollout, will be to get farmers back at ringside because, while they are primarily places for trade, they are also places for people to congregate and connections to be made; something an app or video call can never truly replicate.