ON the last Saturday before Christmas 1993, Aspatria Rugby Club travelled to Plymouth to play a National League three fixture. I was on the team sheet in the front row, writes Adam Day, Farmer columnist and MD of The Farmer Network.

We were very proud to represent both club and County at a level that no other Cumbrian club had ever achieved. We were determined to give a good account of ourselves.

One hour before kick- off, the wind and rain lashed in from the English Channel. The pitch was water- logged and conditions were “Baltic”.

It was time to go outside and warm- up. Our Skipper Mark “Tank” Richardson and pack leader Malcolm Brown had a plan.

“T shirts and shorts only lads, no tracksuits, we’ll show those southern softies”, and out we went.

In front of the club house, we were ordered to get down on our bellies in the mud and do 30 press- ups. As we rattled them out, the Plymouth players were looking out of their changing room window in amazement.

“Look at them” growled Malcolm “They don’t want this, but we DO! We are Men of Cumbria”. At that moment we would have jumped over a cliff with Tank and Malcolm.

Plymouth only appeared on the pitch at kick- off and with the famous Aspatria “up the jumper” style of play, we battered their forwards for 80 minutes and secured a memorable victory. I cannot help but think we beat Plymouth even before the first whistle. Inspired leadership!

During my working career I have always been proud to work within the Cumbrian farming community, and proud of the role that farmers play, not just in farming the land and managing our landscapes, but also within communities and as an essential part of the visitor economy.

Twenty million tourists each year can’t be wrong.

It begs the question “what value do we place on farmers”? As government focusses on green issues, it is equally important to focus on the people and communities who will live- in and manage the rural environment.

Farming is going to change in future, that is undeniable for most Cumbrian farm businesses. I believe that this will bring new opportunities, and if we get the narrative right, there are many positive messages that can be delivered to our buying public and the government.

For example, a friend of mine has planted 70, 000 trees on his farm through stewardship schemes, but no one knows, and farmers don’t talk about it!

Amongst all the challenges and opportunities that farmers will face in the next few years of transition, let’s get some good news stories out there.

Rather like the rugby players of Cumbria, “farmers of Cumbria” are a tough breed! But more than that, as the second most productive county producing red meat and milk and managing one of the most revered landscapes in the country, I believe this is something to be proud of and needs much more promotion in future.

Merry Christmas everyone, and very best wishes for the New Year, whatever the challenge or opportunity!

n Adam Day spent 30 years working as a Land Agent and Auctioneer throughout Cumbria and beyond. He still enjoys auctioneering on a freelance basis, mostly at Penrith Mart, where he first started his career many years ago.

Adam joined the Farmer Network in 2015, initially working three days a week, but has now increased this to four days.

He is involved in all facets of the Network working closely with the board of directors and the management councils to ensure that the Network is delivering what members want and need.

The Farmer Network Ltd is an independent not-for-profit company that provides help and support to farmers and their businesses.