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Support for farmers in a difficult year

The cancellation of agricultural shows has been keenly felt by the agricultural community. After the rush of spring work, a trip to a show – whether it’s the Royal Highland Show or one closer to home – is something to look forward to and was very much missed last year.

Working in agriculture can feel relentless, and agricultural shows offer vital time out – a chance to down tools and take a break from the day-to-day work.

Social connections are good for our mental wellbeing and the social aspect of agricultural shows should not be underestimated. 

Agriculture can be an isolated industry, with many people living and working on their own in remote and rural areas. Catching up with friends, meeting new people and just generally getting the craic are incredibly important aspects of agricultural shows. 

RSABI supports people in Scottish agriculture emotionally, practically and financially. Last year as lockdown set in and shows were cancelled, we recognised that there could be increased risk of loneliness and isolation as people missed their usual social gatherings.

We sometimes think of loneliness as being something that affects mostly older people, however a survey in 2020 of 3,000 people in rural areas found that people aged 18-29 were most likely to report feeling lonely some or most of the time. 

In May 2020 we launched the #KeepTalking campaign, fronted by Perthshire farmer and comedian Jim Smith with auctioneer ambassadors across the country taking part. The four-week campaign encouraged the agricultural community to stay connected and pick up the phone or chat online to friends, family members and neighbours – and to call RSABI if they were feeling low or lonely. The message is more important now, in 2021.

Our helpline – 0300 111 4166 – is open every day of the year from 7am to 11pm and we also offer a call out service for the lonely and vulnerable. During the various lockdowns we saw a significant increase in demand for our call out service. And our staff and volunteers continue to make many of these vital calls.

One of our clients said: “The regular calls have helped me a lot, especially during covid-19.”

While the Royal Highland Show is not able to go ahead as usual this year, the showcase of the best of food, farming and rural life promises to bring the essence of the event to people’s homes in high definition. Events like show jumping, sheep shearing, livestock judging and cooking demonstrations will be live streamed from the showground in Ingliston, and will be a muchneeded morale boost for the industry.

And although it does feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel, most agricultural shows are cancelled for 2021 again, which means people will continue to miss out on vital social interaction.

That’s why RSABI will continue to promote the #KeepTalking message this year. We’ll be encouraging people to get in touch with someone they haven’t spoken to for a while, perhaps a friend, relative or neighbour who lives on their own and could be feeling fed up and lonely. 

We’d also encourage anyone feeling low or lonely to give us a call. If you, or someone you know, would like a regular call from RSABI get in touch on 0300 111 4166 and we can arrange. We’re here to support people in the Scottish agricultural industry and provide a friendly, confidential listening ear.