By Dorset County Show Secretary Will Hyde

Like all industries, agriculture has been affected by the coronavirus and farmers need to stay safe just like the rest of us. But more than ever, they will have an important role to play in the coming weeks and months – and more than ever, we need to look after and support British farmers.

The nature of farm work means they are already used to some of the new “distancing measures”. We hold a lot of our meetings and discussions in the open air and most farms have small teams of colleagues. Rather than being sat next to each other at desks, there is quite often a 30-acre field dividing us, so self-isolation is often a daily occurrence as we spend time in a tractor cab or milking parlour. Luckily, there’s no restrictions on contact with our most valuable and closest colleague – the farm dog! However, on a serious note, although farmers are used to a quieter existence, the new measures put in place will contribute to increased levels of loneliness and remoteness for rural workers.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has caused the cancellations or postponement of many of the social events that farmers enjoy going to. These events offer a huge amount of comfort and relief to farmers; they allow the agricultural community to share the stress and strains of farm life, offering reassurance that we are all in this together and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

To add to the pressure, farmers have found themselves on a “key workers” list published by the government - they have been identified as a skilled group of workers who are vital to the running of this country in a time of need.

In the past fortnight, we’ve seen a lot of changes in consumer habits. People are stocking up more on food in large quantities when they go grocery shopping. People are also shifting from takeaways and eating in restaurants to producing full meals in the kitchen from raw ingredients.

British farmers are working incredibly hard to put those ingredients on supermarket shelves and kitchen tables. We are also utilising home-grown reserves of potatoes, wheat and milk to keep this county going during crisis time.

So, when you are next out walking your dog or grabbing some fresh air and happen to bump into a friendly farmer, please give them your thanks for playing their part in keeping Britain going during this difficult time.