Inveraray farmer Dougie Ford is this year’s recipient of the Stalwart award, presented annually by NFU Scotland’s Argyll and the Islands region.

The Stalwart award, created in 2016 and awarded for the first time in 2017, recognises those who have given time and effort to the work of the union in Argyll and the islands or have made a significant contribution to agriculture in the area.

The virtual regional annual general meeting (AGM), which took place recently saw regional chair Duncan Macalister of Glenbarr Farms, Tarbert announce Ford as this year’s winner.

Ford has spent a lifetime in farming, initially in Ayrshire, and for more than 40 years in Argyllshire. During that time, he has been an active and participating member of NFU Scotland’s Mid Argyll branch.

Although not from a farming background, his early career saw him working at the Hannah Dairy Research Foundation near Ayr focusing on the rearing of dairy calves.

He secured the tenancy of High Balantyre Farm at Inveraray and he arrived driving his little grey Fergie, complete with his hen house on the back containing all his possessions.

With dogged determination and remarkable entrepreneurial attitude, he set about building up a sizeable and successful business that started off with hens, turkeys, pigs and rearing calves providing the foundation to establish a beef herd that peaked at 80 cows.

Next generation platform

However, the farm itself provided the platform for Ford to help the next generation of farmers get their first step on the farming ladder.

Regional chairman Duncan Macalister said:

Dougie Ford is a very worthy recipient of this award because he has spent a lifetime encouraging and mentoring young people in North Argyll to achieve a career in agriculture.

In proposing Ford for the award, inaugural winner Sybil MacPherson said:

"Dougie’s amazing knowledge of people and his ability to connect with young folk has, over the years, provided both education for youngsters, and equally importantly, given a home and moral guidance to numerous young people who had an interest in agriculture but also required a friend and mentor.

"He provided facilities, support and encouragement for around 20 years to many young people involved in Modern Apprenticeships Schemes to help them achieve a formal education in agriculture along with a practical understanding of life in general.

"His patience at times would be sorely tested, but he persevered always looking for the best in folk and providing the stability of a home if necessary."

Speaking after receiving news of the award, Ford said: "I am totally surprised by the award but very delighted.

I have always been keen to help young people with an interest in agriculture to get on and to provide them with the opportunities.

"It has been a pleasure to help with apprenticeships or see others take the first steps before progressing on to college," he concluded.