GRAHAM BRUCE, managing director of Laurencekirk-based farm co-op Ringlink, is this year’s recipient of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society award for outstanding service to North-east agriculture.

There was also recognition for Buchan farmer, David Smith, Cloffrickford, Auchnagatt, who received the Aberdeen and Northern Marts’ award for service on a more local basis, particularly to his local community, NFU Scotland and his commitment to renewable energy.

Pig buildings specialist, James Buckingham, Kirkton House, Culsalmond, received the Argo family’s Unsung Hero award, in appreciation of his unstinting service to North-east pig farmers in the installation and monitoring of ventilation systems for pig buildings and wet feeding systems.

The under-35 award went to Alford agricultural engineer, Stuart Duncan, Redhouse, Tullynessle, who has built up a strong following for his prompt, 24-hour repair service to farmers since branching out on his own.

Agricultural apprentice awards went to Rebecca Bradley, Clashindarroch Cottage, Gartly and James Scott, The Rothes, Market Street, Maud and the agricultural engineering award will be presented to Martyn Burnett, Dennyvale, Oyne, an apprentice with NRN, Insch.

Mr Bruce was appointed managing director of Angus and Mearns Machinery ring when it was formed in 1988. Operating from his kitchen table initially, he has steered the business from a first-year turnover of £175,000 and a loss of £6000 (the only loss it has ever recorded) with 140 members to a £50 million business with 2800 members.

Ringlink was formed in 1998 following the merger with the North-east ring and the Gordon and Buchan ring joined in 2004. The emphasis in the early days was on the sharing of farm machinery and labour to utilise spare machinery and labour capacity. But this initial concept, while still an important part of the business, has been eclipsed by the dramatic growth of a diverse range of services, including the supply of commodities such as fuel, straw, animal feeds, silage wrap and twine and the provision of training through Ringlink Services. Members now enjoy the benefit of the bulk buying of fuel and electricity and discounts on Toyota and Case IH products.

A major focus over the past five years has been the development of a high successful internship scheme designed to attract youngsters into farming which has now been officially recognised as a pre-apprenticeship scheme.

The citation supporting Mr Bruce’s nomination stated: “Without a shadow of doubt, Graham has made an outstanding contribution to the industry and it seems only fitting that his exemplary efforts should be recognised as Ringlink celebrates 30 successful years in business.”

David Smith started farming in his own right as a 20-year-old on a small farm near Auchnagatt and now farms 800 acres with a 250-head beef enterprise and growing excellent crops on moderate land as a result of good management and an appetite for hard work. He is not known as “Hurricane Davie” for nothing!

He has always made an important contribution to his local community and in recent years has played a major role in NFU Scotland, promoting the union to new members and building bridges with local politicians.

He is a former chairman of the New Deer branch and the union’s renewable energy co-ordinator for Scotland. His investment in eight wind turbines has benefited local community associations and he is now concentrating on hydrogen storage, to the extent of installing a hydrogen unit in his Land Rover to reduce carbon emissions.

“David is a very community spirited individual and spends a lot of time for the common good and helping neighbours and friends,” his citation stated. “His enthusiasm is incredible and has not been curbed by a serious accident 11 years ago when he fell through a roof and spent six weeks in hospital.”

James Buckingham is a former researcher with both the old North of Scotland College of Agriculture and the Rowett Research Institute, has carved out a unique niche for himself, not just in the North-east but throughout the UK, since setting up his own business 30 years ago.

He has successfully bridged academia and “practical common sense” and is highly regarded for his expertise and practical approach to the design and installation of ventilation systems and the introduction of computerised wet feeding systems for pigs. “His systems are a ‘must have’ management tool,” said one citation.

But it is as much for his dedication to his farming clients that he has been nominated for the award, regularly ‘phoning pig farmers to advise them of problems which he has picked up from his remote access to their systems and turning up at any time of the day or night to sort out problems.

“He has a fairly unorthodox work pattern but he always gets the job done,” said another citation. “James is deserving of this award for his dedication to the pig industry in a selfless manner, always putting his customers and their pigs before himself.”

Stuart Duncan started his own business after serving his time as an apprentice mechanic, repairing all types of farm machinery and dealing in second hand and new implements. It is not uncommon for him to work through the night repairing implements and machinery for the next morning to avoid any down time for farmers.

“This personal service is very much appreciated by his customers,” stated his supporting citation. “Nothing is too much trouble for him and he deserves to be nominated for the award because of the service he provides to the agricultural industry."