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 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.