Over the past few weeks I have investigated the future challenges that we may face within the farming sector. Among these obstacles are price rises; the fact that with no subsidy, food prices will have to rise substantially. Is the general public ready?

We have seen some crops left to rot because of labour shortages caused by the lack of migrant workers and a lack of HGV drivers. Not as well documented is the lack of workers in the food manufacturing sector, with many companies having vacancy levels between 15% and 20%. It would be fair to say that the food sector in general is in a very bad state. A trend that has been observed over the decades is that when food costs increase, the party in power loses votes. We shall await to see what becomes of the current government.

There are, of course, other factors involved in food price increases. The pandemic has caused chaos in some supply chains, especially around logistics. The cost of freight is rocketing and this has a knock-on effect on the cost of our food.

The worldwide urea shortages mean that, with AdBlue in short supply, even the newer tractors will grind to a halt. The obvious solution to this is to grow more food closer to home (shop locally), reducing the need for transport, but as a nation we waste so much food. If we all shopped locally and reduced our wastage by 5% to 10% we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

Farming can be a tough life, but equally it can be so rewarding. In December we took four in-milk cows to Exeter Market, having not been to Devon in some 20 years, I have now been twice in two months.

Ted managed to sneak into the truck with us and we had a lovely 24 hours. Ted’s face was a joy to behold; he was so excited, breakfast in another market and no school was amazing. Seeing how different markets operate was a great experience (three rings running at the same time); interestingly the calf trade seemed to be back on Ashford, but the cow trade was good so the journey back home with “Grumpy” was full of good humour. It seemed like a long journey, but when you live in the furthest part of the South East anywhere seems like an eternity.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and rested when you could. Sadly, we were unable to watch Ted’s nativity play in person due to the new Omicron variant, but we still loved seeing it on the parent portal online.

We had a relatively quiet Christmas in terms of numbers, although it is a little difficult to have a quiet Christmas with a four-year-old in charge (thankfully mother made it to the USA to see my brother for Christmas). Christmas was a mixture of work and play, with the pace of life seemingly 100mph.

Christmas morning is always a joyous affair (especially when you are four). Stockings are opened at “stupid o’clock” followed by the feeding of all livestock etc and then main presents are delivered. Always practical presents, sheep hurdles, workshop heater, saddle etc… Christmas dinner arrives when all the work is done and the day is nearly over.

Then we moved swiftly onto Zara’s 13th birthday on Boxing Day. Another fun-filled day including a trip to the pantomime. Oh, how we love a trip to the pantomime (“Oh no you don’t.” Ed). I may be biased, but she’s amazing and we are incredibly proud of the young lady she’s become. Unfortunately, before Christmas she became the target of a bullying campaign from an older child in her form at school, and that got me thinking about farmers and the bullying campaign that they endure from supermarkets and the like.

Farming charities see the volume of calls double through the Christmas period, with various pressures increasing, including finances and target deadlines getting tighter and the middle men (supermarkets) seemingly changing the targets daily. Farmers struggle to cope with all the new rules and regulations etc. These charities are always in need of financial support so please help if you can. They have helped so many country people over the years. www.ahdb.org.uk, www.dpjfoundation.co.uk, www.yanahealth.org, www.rabi.org.uk are just a few farming charities that need help.

So, before I wish you all a very happy new year, if you have any spare change please donate.

Happy new year to one and all.