You’ll have to forgive me for the selfish nature of this post. Originally, I thought about doing my usual ‘review of the year in the countryside’ with news on everything from TB to rural crime, HS2, the weather and the impact of Brexit and the election. However, I thought I would review my own year and reflect on how it has been, with flavours of the wider picture. One of the joys of writing I find is placing one’s own personal story into a broader context. It provides a medium to reflect on what has happened and where one is going. Add the changing of the year into that and it is a perfect time to stop and think. Ordinarily, I would leave this format of memoir to my diary, which I have kept for years. However, occasionally it seems more appropriate to reflect in a public manner.
2019 for me has been a time of great change, not necessarily in what I am doing in my life but in the way I think, see the world and see myself. I realise, dear readers, that I have not been as regular in my posting on this blog as I have in previous years. I apologise to you directly for this as I cannot describe quite how much your support in following this blog means to me. Together we have become a community of people with a shared interest but the quality and quantity of articles has slipped through this year. I want to stay true to the roots of the blog and therefore one of my aims in 2020 is to return to thinkingcountry’s original format: as a place to reflect on countryside news and views (with added sustainability, farming, food and environment stories). Instead of trying to post overly regularly and fall on my feet I will publish one post a week (with the exception of January as I will be away on holiday!). I have learnt to my misfortune firstly, and then fortune as a result of learning lessons, the dangers of trying to do too much. I have struggled with my own mental health for the past few years but earlier this year I really turned a corner and started to take control of where I am heading in life. This was a major positive of the year.
Questions are important in life. How do we fit within our community? How does what we have chosen to do with our life fit within a national community or a work community or a family community? Does it make us happy? Does it bring us satisfaction? Are we doing what we really want to in life or just what we think others want us to do? These are all questions that I have reflected on during the course of this year and come out all the stronger because of it.
‘Meet the Farmers’ has grown and developed beyond my original aims this year. I want to thank all of the farmers who I have visited over the past 12 months. Your openness and willingness to tell your stories has enabled the podcast to become something that can hopefully inspire and engage. The podcast is now available on apple podcasts, spotify, soundcloud, eatfarmnow.com and other providers. I have big plans again for moving on even further in 2020. None of this would have been possible without the help and support this year from the Chadacre Agricultural Trust and the Mercer Family Charitable Foundation. I have been able to buy new equipment, push publicity further and travel further afield. I also need to give a huge thank you to my friend Tom Bland who works really hard behind the scenes to make sure the podcast is of good audio quality. I will never forget my Welsh roadtrip experience and am already planning a trip to Yorkshire for the new year.
I have pulled back on my writing and blogging this year as I have focused on the podcast and on projects back on my family farm (definitely aiming to build on my writing portfolio next year and undertake more comms work, which is what really inspires me). From what I see Brexit has ushered in a new pace of encouraging change in farm businesses, not least my own. Twenty years ago my dad was setting the scene for getting out of dairy and transforming the farm business. Since then the arable enterprise has been contracted out, we have gone in to habitat creation and conservation schemes in a big way on the farm and undertaken various diversification projects, some of which have been more successful than others. We continue to learn about sea buckthorn and are starting to push sales more which is a good sign. Planning a family business such as ours is complex and one of survival. We will keep going. The direction may ebb and flow over time (and my goodness it has). It may therefore appear strange to others who look on as to why certain things are happening. Why are we making the decisions that we are making? Well, partly I would say to this, just focus on your own life rather than concerning yourself with other people’s but I would also say that we are in this for the long term. It’s about building a strategy and implementing actions within that strategy to ensure sustainability and resilience in the long term. For example, I have plans for tourism for next year and beyond. The ultimate aim is to get the business in to a fit state for the future – a business that is resilient to cope in an uncertain future. A business that holds health and wellbeing at its heart.
With this in mind earlier this year I co-formed a new health and wellbeing company – Thrive Outdoor – which I am very excited about taking forward next year. In September we held a mud run event on the farm (to be repeated in September 2020), and in July we founded ‘FarmRunner’ which has a community element and a social media element. I have really got into my fitness this year in a way that I haven’t really before and this has helped me move forward in other parts of my life, especially with my mindset.
Another major achievement this year has been launching my new comms website – please check it out. I’m looking forward to working with lots of people next year to bring their stories to the fore and help them with their communications and personal journeys.
This post has been rambling, and fairly unstructured. However, in short I want to say that for anyone who is going through a difficult time, as strange as it seems, you will come out of it all the stronger for it and it may well enable you to see a new clarity that brings inspired new direction.
Happy new year everyone. I wish you all the best for 2020.
Let’s make it a good one.