For the Greater Good…

2nd April 2020

The inaugural weekly diary of Home Worker, Richard Rankin Chief Executive of H&H Group who finds himself writing this, the first of his weekly updates, in extremely unprecedented times. 

“With the planet experiencing a pandemic, uncertainty is everywhere, and anxieties running high.  So much has happened in such a short period, it is hard to keep to a word count!  Life as we used to know it has paused, and for good reason.

At H&H Group, as a family of companies, we are no exception to these changes, nor are we immune to the problems and issues this is presenting. We have spent the last few weeks carefully listening to the guidelines set out by the Government and sectioning our group of businesses into essential and non-essential activity.  We are not on our own in doing this. Many businesses have had difficult decisions to make.

However, it is quite right to see those essential businesses on the front line, the obvious one that springs to mind is the NHS, being hailed in the media as heroes.  Saving lives at the coal face will always be paramount, someway further back but still vital is our food supply, very much essential to our health and wellbeing. And the cornerstone for this; our farmers, are the constant during these uncertain times.

Despite lock down, farmers have most definitely not stopped.  They are still getting up to milk the cows, lambing sheds remain in full swing, the pigs are still being fed, the crops are being drilled – the list goes on and on.  Agriculture is quite simply keeping the country fed and watered!  Maybe this will be a turning point for us as a nation to realise just how important it is to eat locally sourced food and support our farming communities as they rally to keep us nourished.

It is therefore with great relief that I can report that our livestock auctioneering business, Harrison & Hetherington, has obtained direct government approval to continue trading, but understandably under very rigid guidelines. This recognises the importance of marts within our food chain, maintaining a fair and competitive market place, whilst protecting the livelihoods of our farmers.  Our farmstock team has updated their procedures for dealing with ongoing sales to reflect these and stay safe.  For the livestock which cannot currently go through the live ring, we will be trialling an online timed auction process. This is a sign of the times; we are innovating to meet the needs of our customers.

The land agency division of H&H Land & Estates, continues to support and offer vital advice to clients including BPS applications, from the end of a phone, and via emails and online virtual meetings.  However, the scheduled grass letting auction is cancelled and now all lettings will be undertaken by expressions of interest. In addition, Westnewton Hall Farm, near Aspatria which was which was scheduled to be sold by Public Auction on Wednesday 15 April will now be sold on the same day by private treaty.

Following what was the unsurprising announcement, that property sales should delay until further notice, our estate agency division, has stopped viewings, valuations and other property-related activities.  We must remember that these measures have been put in place to protect the people and the property market in the longer term, so for that we have to respect the pause for the greater good of our country. With interest rates at their lowest ever, let us hope that once the lockdown has ceased, that the housing market will quickly bounce back.

Schools and businesses across the country have closed their doors, and as we enter lockdown, and “Family Safety Week”, our H&H Insurance Brokers’ team is keen to highlight the importance of ensuring the safety of children on the farm.

For most, keeping safe under self-isolation presents one set of challenges, however, when your home is a farm, these are somewhat different. Farms are one of the most dangerous places to work and if you add children, the risks increase significantly due to their inquisitive nature and their ability to find danger!  With children home permanently for the foreseeable future, if there was ever a time to reflect on health and safety on your farm, it’s now.

Finally, in a meeting the other day before the lockdown, I was reminded that we are a proud company steeped in heritage with many “challenges” scarring our historical walls.  We have always stood back up, dusted ourselves off and carried on after every one of them – this one is no different.  We are prepared, we have plans, and we are already implementing the changes to ensure our survival.

We are all living through a defined period in time that will have a marker in the future’s history books.  Everything we do now is for that greater good and be in no doubt that the farming community plays a huge part in keeping our country going.

Keep safe, carry on and I look forward to updating you again next week.”

Richard Rankin
Chief Executive
H&H Group