It was Monday 23rd march when lockdown was announced. It was inevitable. I was meant to be moving to Northumbria for six months of documentary work on Tuesday 24th. I decided to stay put. I live in a bleak but beautiful rural landscape, my dog for company, (slow) internet, and my partner, a farmer. I began to feel more detached from my peers and other artists than ever. Every time I went on my hour a day walk I would see farm workers, out producing, and working for many days in a row. The supermarket shelves were empty, I was seeing the same images everywhere and I felt a need to show a different side. Dan, my partner is a contract arable farmer and his family runs a small beef farm. He works long days most recently around 14 hours. I saw my work differently and I felt restless. I have always worked with communities I am a part of in some way. I had an urge, I had to document my life and what was happening.
2020 the year we were all asked to isolate will go down in history but for farmers isolation is something they’ve spent years being good at. As Dan said, “I felt isolated before, I work mainly alone in the tractor cab, I feel disconnected from cities and towns. (As a farmer) I don’t feel particularly seen by the government.” As social distancing became the norm for the rest of the country I asked him about the changes he’s seen. “Not much has changed… I wash my hands more, the tractors get a deep and more intensive clean before taking them to a different farm.” As a contractor Dan could work on a number of different farms in the local area.
When lockdown was announced people were worried here. The local hospital James Cook in Middlesbrough. As with most rural areas, limited resources and an aging population, the effects would be a disaster. 2020 had already brought devastation and challenges to the Northern dales. January saw floods that devastated the land. A misty moorland, dotted with ancient stone barns, a picturesque thinly populated landscape. Rural areas and farming haven’t been popular for some years. The work they do, and efforts they are making towards sustainability remain largely forgotten. I don’t know what is next for the industry but I will follow this story over the next year. The after effects on the industry are still to come.