The recent, sudden passing of a very close friend has left me feeling both bereft and pensive and, being truly honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this achingly sad before.
The sense of loss and injustice is all consuming, and it’s hard to really concentrate on anything else. But it has led me to contemplate the true meaning of friendship and how very fortunate we are in the farming community in this regard.
Rachel was, in many ways, the heartbeat of a group of us who were thick as thieves from the start of our time at Harper Adams University more than 20 years ago, and we have remained as close as family ever since. Best men and bridesmaids at each other’s weddings, godparents to each other’s children, and unfailingly there for each other through life’s good times and bad.
Though we all scattered to the four corners of the world after university, and have become older and marginally more responsible over the years, on the occasions when we do reunite, it feels, temporarily at least, as if we’re young and daft and invincible again. What an incredibly joyous thing that is.
Perhaps a part of this is the shared background that most of us in agriculture have. Despite all our different personalities and outlooks on life, we have something in common if we were brought up on a farm or within the industry, wherever we’re from in the world.
That sense of freedom and adventure, as well as work ethic and a willingness to pitch in to help get the job done, is deeply ingrained within most of us from childhood. It can’t be overstated how much of a help that can be with all sorts of different relationships in life.
Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFC) are an integral part in many of our lives from our teenage years, and maybe that’s something we take slightly for granted, as I’m not sure if there’s any comparable organisation in other communities.
Whether it’s joining in with competitions or performances, taking part in events that really challenge us, such as public speaking, or just getting together over a few (or more usually several) drinks, the social skills we learn and the memories of shared experiences we have of our time there are things that never leave us.
I wonder how many Farmers Weekly readers met their best friends and life partners in YFC? I did, and several thousands of others must have done too in the nearly 90 years since the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs was formed.
It has been tremendously difficult to be apart from each other this past 12 months. While those of us who live on farms have perhaps been more fortunate than most, it’s still been very hard to be isolated from those closest to us.
Whether it’s a regular cup of tea and a chat in a market café, a much anticipated annual get together at a conference or agricultural show, or the oldest of friends meeting up to laugh about things that happened decades ago, these human interactions, intimacies and relationships are what really make our community what it is.
As soon as our own particular group can get together again, we will, and we’ll remember our wonderful Rachel, with doubtless tears, but with many more smiles.
Here’s to old friends.