We are doing well…but we can’t stop yet…

23rd April 2020

Another lock down.  It didn’t come as any great surprise to most of us, but the reality of starting another three-week ‘stint’ still hits us hard and will test all our mental strength. The death toll figures continue to make uncomfortable watching in the Government’s daily updates and the summary from those at the top is one of encouragement but stark warning: “we are doing well…but we can’t stop yet”.  Our responsibility still remains to reduce the impact on the NHS in any way we can but it also includes ensuring that when we return to our businesses and resume our daily lives, it’s for good and not just a temporary reprieve.  This is vital for our economy to bounce back.

I remain humbled by what I see reported of the NHS heroes and as we do with the NHS each Thursday at 8pm, we must also applaud Captain Tom, who is continuing to raise funds for the NHS by aiming to walk a hundred lengths of his 25m back garden, by the time he turns 100 at the end of April. He wanted to raise £1000 but has raised millions already – a quite unbelievable achievement!  He has captured the heart and spirit of our nation, the whole: “it’ll take more than a virus to stop me” attitude, which is what we need to see at this time.

I am equally proud of my team, who despite the circumstances are most definitely doing their bit.  Chris Sutherland, one of our graphic designers at H&H Reeds Printers has made over 100 much-needed face masks with visors with his home 3D printer, and distributed 50 to NHS carers in local hospitals, as well as local home carers, a vets practice, a supermarket in Keswick and a care home.  He has raised funds for materials from a post on Facebook.  Another colleague at H&H Reeds, Fiona Whelan, has been accepted for the NHS Volunteer programme as a GoodSAM Responder taking phone calls from anyone who needs to chat from 6pm to midnight each week day and all day at weekends and she has also registered for another local call support group. Amazing stuff!

As time goes by, aside of the obvious affect this pandemic is having on the nation’s health, other sad consequences are being reported.  One that angered me this week was a 50% increase in fly-tipping reported due to Councils being forced to close waste sites and having to reduce services due to social distancing.  This refuse inevitably ends up on farmers’ land and is now a daily occurrence with quite a cost associated with it.  At any time, this is bad, but in the middle of a crisis, it just adds insult to injury.  It is a service I would rather not have to provide as it is so unnecessary, but at this time, our insurance team, H&H Insurance Brokers, are now processing claims for this and advising on new policies for farmers who have quite frankly had enough of the inconvenience and the cost.  I can’t say I blame them!

I told you last week of our upcoming 2020 pedigree livestock sale for Border and Lakeland Club, which due to lock down regulations in place, was to be run as an ebay-style online auction through our livestock auctioneers, Harrison & Hetherington.  I am thrilled to report that as the UK’s very first dedicated virtual livestock sale, it was deemed a success with nearly 80% of stock cleared, which equated to 50 bulls sold, and the top bull selling for £4,600. This result is thanks to our team for thinking metaphorically ‘outside the box’, and physically outside the ring.  Our farming community must also be recognised as many are used to showing their cattle live in the sales ring, not making videos for online use, so this was very much out of their comfort zone.  However, my appreciation and admiration has to go out to them for truly getting into the spirit of the event and we hope to develop and improve on this moving forward as it is the perfect example of innovation out of adversity.

As a team, we continue to make the best of the situation, even if it feels a bit ‘groundhog day.’  I enjoy the daily reports on all of their activities out of work to fill the time and space.  Birthdays and anniversaries are still being celebrated the best they can, beautiful gardens are blooming, the most amazing food is being produced, budding photographers enjoying nature are emerging, bonnets were fashioned over Easter, and we have even held a remote baking competition – results to be announced next week. My only regret on this was that I couldn’t judge and of course taste the fantastic results!

As a Group, H&H is continuing to support the farming community in many ways from insurance, advising on land and scheme matters and of course ensuring livestock are traded to ensure the food supply chain continues.   I am reassured at these times that we offer services that supports agri-businesses and really do make a difference.   It looks like we are going to be in this a while longer so I will sign off in the way that has become a repetitive but very necessary message – stay home and stay safe.

Richard

Richard Rankin, CEO