The Mart is the Heart

The Marts the Heart. Or is it?

Let me tell you a story, a story of woe and murder most foul.

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there was an auction mart. This mart was a thriving livestock market in its prime.  People came from all over the country to the mart.  It sold the best of animals and brought buyers with the deepest pockets.

It bustled with activity, people coming and going, buying and selling, wheeling and dealing, it all happened there.

Pens and pens of store lambs ready to move to pastures new, fat lambs to bring through and through, not to mention  a blue grey coo or two!

The town would rejoice on sale day, farmers and buyers would fill their glasses and troubles would fade away, celebrating their purchases or spending their spoils without delay!

So it continued for many a year

Then the villain arrived

“The Supermarket”

The supermarket entered and the fairytale was over.

 The supermarket came and smashed the mart to smithereens, broke down its walls, pulled out its pens, and killed the heart of this town.  As a final gesture of audacity, the supermarket tore off the marts beautiful weather vane to wear atop of its new store as a gruesome trophy of its victim.


Sadly this is no fairytale, it’s the true story of the mart in my home town of Hawick, it was pulled down the year I started school to make way for Safeway, and the Hereford bull weather vane still resides a top of the now Morrison’s supermarket.

After Hawick mart went, it made more sense for my dad to sell direct to the slaughter house, the marts still remaining in the borders were more of a trek. ‘Fuel isn’t cheap you know, a days work isn’t wasted standing round at a mart’.  Thus starts a slippery slope, before long the gimmers were arriving each year without dad ever leaving the farm, tups bought privately, cattle sold through a middle man.  No more mart pies with mushy peas and chips for me, no more getting to chase the sheep round in the ring nervously holding my stick, no seller pushing a pound note into my little hand for luck for the pen of ewes headed home to Muirfield.

Does it matter?

·         Marts have a huge part to play in farming, the livestock market is based on what people will pay at the mart, if it wasn’t for the marts the supermarkets would hold all of the power and be able to dictate to farmers exactly what price they could pay which would likely be below cost! We need the mart to remain at the heart of livestock farming so that we can ensure that there is always competition between buyers.

·         The social side of the mart can never be overlooked, rarely otherwise would such a diverse group of farmers meet, a mart serves to remind us that we are not alone, for we spend long hours working in, and against the elements, against disease and market forces, it can feel we are the only ones going through it. After a day in the mart you realise farmers are all in the same boat, and that is a great thing to be reminded of.

·         Pride; what better way to showcase your talents than show them reflected in your stock, there is no finer thing than taking stock in its prime that you have reared to be displayed and sold in front of an appreciative audience.

·         The next generation; one of my earliest memories is travelling with dad to the Bellingham ewe lamb sale, I was completely overawed, a giant of a man asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered ‘a blackie farmer’ (yes I made it, go me!)  Marts are where all the glamour of farming is, I always say its like farming, but with makeup on.  The dressing, the titivating, the auction, the showing before the sale, its all very attractive to youngsters, it ups the ante and makes farming look much more attractive.

If the supermarkets have their way the marts will fail and everything will be sold directly, farmers will become merely employees in the giant cog.

Lets not let the supermarkets claim any more trophies, and allow the marts to carry on beating strongly at the heart of our industry.




My name is Emma Gray and I'm in an abusive relationship.

My name is Emma Gray and I am in an abusive relationship.

It all started at a very young age, in fact I can barely remember when it began, but I fell deeply in love with my abuser and it has been like that my whole life.  I doubt I’ll ever be able to break the cycle, to be honest I don’t even try, I know this is my lot in life and it makes me happy, I always hope my abuser will change, get better, be kinder to me but I fear I’m trapped in a relentless cycle of hurt and upset.

Who is this nemesis of mine?


You may think this a bit of an overreaction to make such a comparison, so I did a bit of research, here’s the nine signs of being in an abusive relationship:


1.       Feelings of helplessness and desperation

Any farmer can relate to the powerless feeling of sleet, snow and driving rain lashing down on day ten of the lambing, when all of those lambs you have carefully cared for start dropping like flies and perishing before your eyes. Or as you watch the hay you have diligently turned in the summer sun, get a soaking from an unforecasted storm on bailing day. The frustration and helplessness is enough to make you scream or cry.


2.       Lavishing love and kindness on the abuser with no reward or thanks

When that Leicester you nursed through the winter stuffing him full of feed, keeping him inside with copious amounts of straw and best quality silage, makes it through to the summer, he’s out the woods you cry, to find the ungrateful bastard lying dead the next day.


3.       A  bad and unpredictable nature

Your cash flow says that this year things will be all right because lambs will be worth £75, SURPRISE!!  Lambs are worth £55, but all your costs are the same, ‘HA.HA.HA’ says farming where does that leave your cash flow now?!


4.       Stop you from going out and seeing friends and family

‘Sorry I can’t come out tonight, I know it’s been planned for ages, but the cow that was due last week, thought that Saturday night was the best time to calve’


5.       Limit your access to money/steal and take money from you

Ordinary Person – ‘What would you do if you won the lottery?’

Typical Farmer – ‘Farm till it’s all gone’

Farms love to gobble money and farmers love to pour money down its throat, improve the stock, improve the machinery, bigger tractor, bigger bull, and if you are the conservative type, you can be damn sure something major and expensive will break just to make sure you remain impoverished


6.       Injure you on a regular basis

I don’t know about other people, but working with scotch blackies has meant I haven’t been able to don a skirt since I was 12; my legs are like a dot the dot with bruises on a permanent basis. As for hands, don’t get me started, they are cut, scared, blistered, not to mention the time when I had that dose of orf and looked like I had leprosy for half a year! And of course lets not forget the minor 'rolling the bike and breaking my back incident' all in the name of farming.


7.       Make sure you never wear nice things or look good

Just checking on that cow on the way to a posh wedding is never a good idea, and yet a part of you is always insistent, it’s not till you get there you notice the dirty mark on one leg. It is nigh on impossible to leave the farm without some sort of mark, it’s like a brand, you are a farmer you cannot go out clean!


8.       Isolate you

I was trapped at Fallowlees for a full week in the snows of 2 years ago, isolated doesn’t cover it. No phone, no internet, no vehicle, no nothing. I watched every DVD I could (including steam engines of the world) also drew a face on a football and called it Wilson.......


9.       Threats

These might be thinly veiled threats, but you know they are there, the knowledge that  if you don’t go round the sheep that day, the farm will punish you with three ewes on their backs. Farms like retribution.



For all of that, I know I will always be in this relationship, because it’s not all bad...

Farming isn't an entirely cruel master, and occasionally throws us little perks and surprises along the way, a set of twin heifer calves, a good lambing, a hot summer, a field of lambs thriving on good grass or a  good harvest.  It’s a way of life not for everyone, but for those it fits, it’s an addiction.

(and above all we are eternal optimists :)




When farmers die why are they only buried 3 foot deep?

Why do they only bury farmers 3 foot deep why they die?

So they can still get a handout!


If you are a farmer you are perhaps outraged by such a statement, lately I have come to fear that it is generally what many people think.

Until recently I had spent all of my life in either the Scottish borders or Northumberland, both very much rural counties.  Most of the people I mix with are from farming, and the ones who aren’t have a good grasp of rural life. Living in this warm agricultural environment my whole life, gave me a rose tinted view of what the general public thought  about farmlife. I imagined that most were of the opinion that farmers were hard working, salt of the earth people who work long hours, loved their stock and often got a raw deal. I like to think in these areas, farmers are viewed with respect and affection. I naively thought this extended itself to the rest of the country.

Perhaps not.

Travelling down to the big smoke this year for flockstars opened my eyes.

The first person I spoke to was my taxi driver in a black cab from the train station. After finding out I was a farmer he was quick to assume that I was sitting in a castle upon thousands of acres, shooting grouse for fun and claiming a ridiculous payment from the government. (If only!) He was jovial about it, but did say he resented the fact thatin his words;  ‘you lot are always on the news being miserable, complaining about one thing or the other.’

Over the next few weeks a similar pattern emerged, people either had virtually no knowledge, ‘I thought they only had shepherds in the bible’ to too much knowledge ‘the average subsidy paid to a farmer is £28000, how can farmers be struggling? that’s more than my wage!’

I would try to justify my career choice to these people and could wax lyrical about rents, land prices, lamb prices, milk prices, land agents, decoupling, welfare, traceability etc etc but inevitably their eyes would glass over, no one wants to be preached to.

So what is the solution?  In order for farming to survive and weather this storm, the number one goal is surely to have the consumer, the public on side. We need to change their perception.

 Public perception

‘ Farmers are given hand outs by the government for nothing, they are greedy, miserable bastards and they are always complaining about everything; poor harvest, low milk prices, poor lamb prices.  Can’t be that bad if I’m paying so much at the supermarket and butchers. They all live on farms worth millions, how can they be struggling?’   


Farmers are hard pushed, hardworking people, who are restricted at every turn by red tape and bureaucrats. Who dread the step of some inspector, coming to pick fault, who gamble with their lively-hood every year; ‘will the next forcast wipeout my youmg lambs? Should I sell my corn this month or next? How much will feed be? What new rules will some pen pusher invent for me to adhere to? Will I cover my rent? What price will the supermarkets dictate to me, will it be enough?

How can it be done?

Answers on a postcard!!



My Farm

Ever changing and always working

Life on the farm is of course where it all happens. All this celebrity stuff is great ... and yes it is great .... a welcome distraction from the muck and the dirt and the weather.

But farming is what I do and I LOVE it. For some it might seem a lonely life but really it isn't. We farming folk are a close knit bunch and whilst we might seem a bit on the gruff side we really are friendly - honest!

So farmers help each other out - we work for each other - and we are always chasing the weather. But 6am on a cold wet morning - on the fields with the sheep and the dogs .... well there is nothing like it.

Flockstars hits the screen

A brand new sheepdog trialling extravaganza for ITV.
From the heart of the great British countryside comes Flockstars, a brand new primetime knockout competition for ITV. Hosted by GABBY LOGAN, a cast of famous faces will be swapping red carpets for green fields and the all‐new palace of rural show business, the Flockstars Showground. Brace yourself as “it’s time to release the sheep” (not to mention geese) and see which of the tweed‐adorned talented stars will be able to adapt their skillset to master the most impressive of countryside sports.