Autumn in Shetland is a time of to-ings and fro-ings, with every day seeing migrations of birds moving south and shipments of livestock being sold to Scottish farmers. Every year around 100,000 head of sheep are sold by crofters for fattening on the verdant pastures of North East Scotland where the grass hardly stops growing. This trade started in the late 19th century and grew through the 20th century in tandem with Governmental control of agriculture.
Farmers and crofters, in particular, are labelled ‘subsidy junkies’ by politicians and journalists needing a football to kick for reacting to ‘market signals’ (the very same signals for which entrepreneurs are lauded as shrewd businessmen).
During the last 2 decades of the 20th century politicians suddenly discovered the ‘environment’. I recall being told that - I used to be paid to produce livestock, but now it was flowers. Sadly, this period of more open discussion with the new buzzword of biodiversity issuing from the mouths of people who thought it was actually something new, came to an economic cliff edge and fell over.
At this point in time biodiversity and all the other words in the green lexicon have ceased to become natural and meaningful, and have become laws which if broken result in fines for the crofter. What was life-affirming for folk of a certain age became a worry.
The wheel, of course will turn again, as events will dictate to society that nature deserves respect.
Well that’s my soap box!
Closer to home, Autumn is the season for selling lamb and now beef. We have supplied Lidgates for 10 years now with our native lambs, which used to be a completely unknown product to these customers. Professional marketing people will tell you that you must get to know your customers, however being so far away this is difficult. Every year we tell another facet of the ‘Shetland story’. This year we have started selling our native beef as well. Hopefully, our customers will appreciate this as much as the lamb. It is an interesting product with a range of special traits to differentiate it in the marketplace.
Lidgates have chosen to emphasise the breed’s history by calling it – Iron Age Beef! An unusual way of selling meat, but then we do live at a point in history where modern ‘improved’ breeds dominate the industry. Whether they have been ‘improved’ in the way customers appreciate or not is quite different..