Industry honours Fife farming stalwart

John Cameron receives the NFU Scotland Ambassador award from NFU Mutual Group chairman Richard Percy.
John Cameron receives the NFU Scotland Ambassador award from NFU Mutual Group chairman Richard Percy.
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JOHN Cameron CBE, a true stalwart of the Scottish farming industry, received the NFU Scotland Ambassador award at the union’s centenary AGM and annual dinner this week in St Andrews.

Established by the union in 2009 and supported by NFU Mutual, the Ambassador award was set up to recognise those individuals who, through their own efforts, have played an influential role in communicating the work, challenges and the value of Scottish farming and food to a wider audience.

Mr Cameron, of Balbuthie by Kilconquhar and a union president from 1979 to 1984, was hugely influential in ensuring Scotland’s livestock sector was represented at home and in Europe and has been a tireless supporter of Scottish beef and sheep production.

He collected the award in front of 510 guests attending the union’s centenary dinner in St Andrews on Monday.

Announcing the award, NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said: “There can be few greater servants to Scotland’s crucial beef and sheep sectors than John Cameron and his tireless support and endless enthusiasm for the Scottish industry is unrivalled.

“As a former president, a leader of our hill farming and livestock committees and the first ever chairman of Europe’s sheepmeat committee, John not only put NFU Scotland on the European map but gave Scottish livestock a voice in Brussels – the legacy of which continues to this day.

“He is a figure whose reputation in Europe still opens doors.

“Backed by his wonderful wife, Margaret, and a fantastic and enthusiastic staff, he has selflessly opened up his farms to the Scottish industry.

“Those events not only show the performance, standards and care he takes in his farming business but also have regularly provided the backdrop for technical innovation and best practice and rolling that out to fellow farmers.

“His openness and vision for the future has always been readily shared with the next generation, and his valuable experience in establishing the Cameron Scholarship Trust helped shape NFU Scotland’s own Centenary Trust.”

He went on to say that Mr Cameron’s influence on farming continued to have an remarkable reach – from Balbuthie to the corridors of power in Brussels and on to Malawi.

Mr Miller concluded: “He has helped an extraordinary number of people in his life and, in our centenary year, I can think of no more fitting recipient of our Ambassador award than John.”

Making the award, NFU Mutual group chairman Richard Percy said: “With more than 100 years experience working with farmers, we appreciate the tremendous value of those who act as an ambassador for their sector. Over many years, John Cameron has represented Scottish livestock farmers and has been a huge influence in maintaining Scotland’s reputation as a source of the finest beef and lamb.”

Having served the farming industry in many capacities over the years, outside agriculture, Mr Cameron has had a long-standing interest in the railway.

He founded Lochty Private Railway in the East Neuk in 1966 which was a popular attraction for a number of years.

He has served for six years as the Scottish member on the main board of British Rail, and is currently railway advisor to the Stagecoach Group plc and was recently appointed as director of the largest private railway company – South West Trains.

His home and base for his farming operations lies inland from St Monans where until recently, he farmed arable, grassland and hill units in partnership with his wife.

He continues to farm in the area, running 250 suckler cows and a pedigree herd of Herefords.

His farming practice is based on simple, low-cost extensive systems of production with particular emphasis on welfare and animal health. His other interests are flying and shooting.

Previous winners of the NFU award include former BBC broadcaster Ken Rundle. In 2010, the award was given posthumously to the journalist and broadcaster Dan Buglass, rural affairs editor of The Scotsman. In 2011, prominent cook, hotelier and writer Lady Claire Macdonald collected the award and well known livestock auctioneer David Leggat was the winner last year.