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Farming: Society celebrates north-east agricultural excellence

By David Porter

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One of Scotland’s premier farming organisations has unveiled the latest recipients of its prestigious annual awards.

The Royal Northern Agricultural Society (RNAS) awards are presented each year to stalwarts of the north-east farming community in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the sector.

The accolades are presented at the Society’s awards lunch which takes place in Aberdeen in early November and brings together a range of representatives to shine a light on the achievements of winners in a range of categories.

Peter Cook
Peter Cook

Receiving the Press & Journal/RNAS shield for services by a public figure or personality to agricultural this year is Peter Cook.

Currently working as Director of Food, Drink and Agricultural at Opportunity North East (ONE) Peter Cook, was brought up on the family farm of Mosshead, Kemnay. He is a graduate of Aberdeen University who has done much to help farmers navigate the challenges of the industry. He is widely regarded as an excellent communicator with a wealth of experience which he has built up through roles within a range of organisations including SAC, Aberdeen University and his own agriculture advisory business.

This year’s Aberdeen & Northern Marts Local Award has been won by businessman Gordon Towns, well known as a partner in Towns & Carnie Ltd which operates throughout the north-east.

After starting his career as a mart clerk in Elgin and moving to North Eastern Farmers, Gordon established Towns & Carnie Ltd with Sandy Carnie in 1982. In 2019 he received the Chris Hamilton memorial award at the AHDA Conference for his dedication to the industry and, along with wife Ann, he established the Forglen herd of highland ponies in 1978, a prefix which is synonymous with showing success at the highest levels of the equestrian world.

The David Argo Award to an unsung hero working within the agricultural sector who merits recognition will be presented to Iain MacDonald who recently retired after 25 years of service as a feed adviser for Norvite Animal Nutrition. Originally from a farm in Mid Lothian, Iain is well

respected for his knowledge and expertise in the animal feed sector and has been in demand as a speaker at events such as FAS new entrant and monitor farm meetings as well as for his commentary at Nairn and Keith shows. Iain’s passion for educating the next generation saw him hold the post of chairman of Royal Highland Education Trust’s (RHET) Highland branch.

Ben Lowe
Ben Lowe

The SRUC award for someone 35 years and under who has shown significant achievement and contribution in agriculture has been won by Ben Lowe from Newburgh, Ellon. Although not from a farming background, Ben has been working part-time on farms since the age of 14 and went on to study at SRUC Edinburgh for four years gaining a BSc Hons in Agriculture, and the RHASS medal for top second year student. Alongside his studies which included completing his diploma in agronomy in 2019, Ben also set up and ran a farm shop as a partner and bought his own sheep flock. Also, in 2019 he started his farming business as a new entrant and operates HB Farms in partnership with his wife, Harriet. In 2021, the enterprise took a major step forward when it grew to include a 450-sow pig farm.

The RNAS awards also have a long-standing reputation for recognising the emerging generation with a clutch of accolades for students. This year’s recipient of the Johnston Carmichael-sponsored award for a farmers’ son or daughter working at home goes to SRUC Agricultural student Mitchell MacGillvray from Glenlivet whilst the award for a student employed off farm goes to Rural Business Management Student, Lindsey Brown from Midmar.

Meanwhile, the agricultural apprentice engineer award – sponsored by Turriff Agri Parts – has been won by Reece Marr who is currently studying a land-based engineering extended diploma with Ravenhill (Dyce).

Commenting on this year’s winners, RNAS president Alan Cumming said: “Our annual awards are an important occasion to pause and reflect on the breadth and depth of talent which exists here in the north-east.

“Choosing winners always poses something of a challenge for our panel due to the calibre of nominations we receive, and we are once again delighted to be recognising some of the excellent work which takes place every day. The RNAS extends its warmest congratulations to every


The 2023 RNAS awards lunch will take place at the Leonardo’s Hotel, Aberdeen Airport on Friday, November 3 and to book tickets, email secretary@rnas.info or call (07593) 227847.

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