‘Keep our heads up and look forward to better days’

‘Keep our heads up and look forward to better days’

Alex Stephen, Inch or Arnhall, Edzell (Chairman of Mearns Club and Aberdeen & Kincardine District) contributed to the Courier and Press & Journal Opinion column in Saturday’s edition. Here’s what he had to say…

2020 what a year and certainly one to remember. A year that has seen a level of disruption to our nation that could never have been imagined. Aside from all the negativity we will associate with it, it was a relatively normal and successful farming year with very little disruption to everyday life. Lockdown has had its perks for farmers, In the springtime it was fantastic as large tractors and drills could buzz around the countryside roads unaffected by oncoming traffic. Right through harvest whilst most of the country were turning back gardens into Mediterranean styled bars, we pushed on to gather in the harvest. As winter arrived cattle were housed as the country prepared for a festive period with no Christmas parties. And now almost a year on we find ourselves in an unchanged situation, just as well there are young farmer articles to keep you entertained.

We could look back on it and be disappointed that we have not spent the summer socializing at local shows or been on the foreign holidays that we had planned. On the other hand, we can be grateful our day to day lives remained normal and hold our heads up high knowing that we have supplied high welfare, quality food to families whose lives in some cases have been turned upside down, been put on hold and been completely confined to their homes.

If anything, it has been a year which has made us appreciate the people who are closest to us. Our farm has a public road through the middle of it and I have never seen so many families walking together. However, one day, I did see a family of four out walking each about 3 or 4 meters apart… I’m not sure it was for social distancing reasons. People have pulled together as communities standing outside their houses clapping in support of the NHS and offered help to the vulnerable to deliver groceries.

Over the Christmas period, like many other families I am sure have exhausted the Netflix and Amazon prime film selections. When scouring the DVD collection, we stumbled across a film about the animal behaviorist Mary Temple Grandin. For anyone who is unaware of this person I can honestly say she is one of the most interesting people I have learnt about. Temple Grandin is a designer of cattle handling facilities and devised the curved chute system which we see so frequently in modern day handling set ups. She has revolutionized cattle handling across the globe and impressively in North America nearly half of all cattle are handled in systems she has designed. In her spare time, she is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. Adding to this she is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to document the insights she gained from her personal experience of autism. The film follows the story of her life and how she learnt to deal with her autism whilst coming up with groundbreaking technology in the handling of livestock. By observing the way cattle move and interact with humans she built a system which the cattle wanted to run through with very little effort. In one scene she was quoted saying “nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be” she backed this up by the calm way the cattle moved through her systems. For anybody who is interested in cattle or animals full stop I really cannot recommend it enough.

Like in the film where Temple was faced with what seemed like an impossible task, we too as society are currently experiencing something difficult and uncomfortable. Where we find it difficult not seeing our friends and families, she had to work tirelessly to get people to listen to her because of condition and gender. But she didn’t let it get to her like we cant. We have to keep our heads up and look forward to better days because they will come.