Neil Diamond sings about the beautiful noise:
“Goin’ on everywhere
Like the clickety-clack
Of a train on a track
It’s got rhythm to spare”
I have no idea when he wrote that but it could be adapted to the clickety-clack of zoom meetings in the current world situation. Maybe not what we had envisioned for 2020 but suddenly for those of us remote, we can attend meetings without having to clock up time and emission miles. One laptop, an ironing board (so I can sit on a comfy seat rather than a desk), and some internet connection. The clickity-clack of the train is substituted for a keyboard.
Does it fully compensate seeing and meeting up with people? No. But with zoom I was able to participate in the Scottish Crofting Federations’s (SCF) Young Crofter’s Virtual Gathering this week. I have no plans to go travelling at the moment but on that day I got to visit Lewis, Uist, Kishorn, and Glenelg to name a few. And with those video clips and virtual gathering came the beautiful noise. The sound of hearing what others are doing, the impact of Covid, and aspirations of other Crofters.
And on that note, here is my challenge. Covid has made people more aware of food supply chains, buying local and minimising their carbon footprint. There are plenty who have these aspiratations to use the land; but to buy land, you need money. Yes, to take up an expensive ‘hobby’ as some tell me; crofting for many of us is ‘on the side’. We have other occupations. But that gives us resilience. Nor does all our income go to one basket. A couple of pigs, some sheep, a few cows, bees and a veg garden mean that if one market flops for whatever reason (say a sudden influx of cheap beef from abroad), we have cover. We’re less likely to go out with a bang (we are probably also a fairly determined group that are use to battling everything from bulls to bairns, wedders to weather, so we don’t just take things lying down). Some pay huge amounts to go play golf, others croft. When pandemics hit, what would you prefer to have as your neighbour? A golfer or a crofter? A professional golfer may draw in crowds, but how much time and fuel goes in to trimming those immaculate lawns and how tasty is a golf ball? But here’s the issue. To want to use the land, to invest blood, sweat and tears, oddly enough you need money. Estate owners can have a huge area of land, not live in the area, not invest locally, burn patches of hillside, release thousands of birds to then shoot a few months later. Birds that often have little use in the food supply change. But they have the money so they have the land. Someone else may look at physically utilising 10 acres of land, live on site, but struggle to find anything. Or if they do have land, have the battle of their veg crop being decimated by deer or loosing their chicken flock to pneumonia passed on by the estate’s incoming pheasants.
So a call to politicians for land reform? The innovation of what business opportunities can be generated on poor ground is amazing. Major changes needed to help with this? Yes, but small changes can have big impacts. You will then get the ‘the sound of the kids’, future generations putting investment back into communities. But this is where everyone (not just those in crofting or want to be involved) need to make a beautiful noise. Anyone who values utilising the land and having food on their table can invest in it. Buy local when you can, find out what work went in to your food, support the SCF who fights for Crofters, and together we can make a beautiful noise.
NB, Ok, not all golfers and estate owners can be categorised together, I have generalised. I do not fully understand the full laws behind land but I am more than happy to invite any politician to come spend a day here to find out more. The work is outside and you can be sociably distanced (the cows aren’t as good with that but well, they have had the coronavirus immunisation). Ms Stugeon, you may not need such fancy clothes but don’t worry, we’re less likely to make comments about how you look and I’d more likely want to know what you can do with that law degree under your belt for the future Crofters.