2020 started badly, and has only got worse since, but it still has the potential to go out on a high, says Leicestershire arable and beef farmer Joe Stanley.
2020 was not shaping up to be a vintage year.
International diplomacy; domestic politics; the media; all seemed set to continue their abyssal descent to the lowest denominational depths.
Social media? It was becoming a brave user who ventured an opinion in that electronic Wild West for fear of inviting untold opprobrium from the ranks of the anonymous and outraged.
Even in agriculture, many of our own peers were becoming only too ready to burn the entire edifice to the ground if it meant promoting their own narrow ideal of what ‘proper’ farming should be.
And let’s not even mention the vegans.
Then the reset happened.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has already changed the world in ways which would have been unthinkable only a month ago.
What our society and economy will look like when it has been contained and defeated, we can at this stage only suppose.
My heart goes out to the millions who fear for their jobs or their businesses – if not their health and lives – as a result of the coronavirus.
Farmers, in this situation, have it easy – we just have to carry on as normal. For the nation. Let’s not make a big deal of it.
But, were I forced to find a silver lining in this flustered cluck of a situation, it would be this: the reset has provided some relief.
As a farmer, I was incommunicably weary of the constant, bruising assaults on our industry from all quarters.
A day did not seemingly pass without a fresh accusation of environmental degradation or welfare infringement from the media; without a celebrity taking it upon themselves to inflict their dangerously misinformed opinions on the world; or without another Government advisor calling for an end to domestic food production.
Rewilding before lunch, and home for tea and medals.
And again; let’s not mention the vegans.
This has all gone blissfully quiet.
The media have the biggest news story since the Second World War to cover; self-promoting celebrities are suddenly less important than self-deprecating virologists; and as for the SpAds – well, those headlines have aged badly, let’s be honest.
I have to hope that something positive can come from our national reset.
That, upon encountering our common humility before the power of nature and God, we are able to tone down the stridency of our debates; to concede that perhaps there may be room for compromise; that we are all members of the same family, and that seeking to tear each other down for its own sake gets us, ultimately, nowhere except a hollow moral nihilism devoid of any real satisfaction.
What does this mean, in practice?
Hopefully, that when negotiations resume – presumably after an amicable extension – our exit from the European Union will be both harmonious and mutually beneficial.
That future trade deals will have hard-wired in their DNA the importance of protecting domestic food production, with memories of panic-buying of foodstuffs on a national scale (despite no supply shortages) fresh in the legislative consciousness.
And that the issue of food security, so frequently sniffed at by academic ‘experts’ on the issue, will finally be taken seriously by the political establishment.
Perhaps most of all, we might all learn to be kinder.
2020 started badly. It has gotten worse. But possibly, just possibly, it can go out on a high.
Joe can be found tweeting at @JoeWStanley