The Ed Rainy Brown Memorial Award for 2020 has gone to James Graham, former chief executive of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS).
Mr Graham stepped down from the helm of SAOS, the umbrella body for Scotland’s agri co-ops, last March, after 33 years – including a 21-year stint as CEO.
He was also a founder member of Scotland Food & Drink’s Partnership Board, and co-chair of Scotland Food & Drink’s Supply Chain Board.
Katy Rainy Brown presented James with the award, chosen by the SAOS and the National Farmers Union Scotland, at the SAOS annual conference dinner at Dunblane Hydro Hotel last week.
SAOS and NFU Scotland said Mr Graham has “not only steered SAOS through the last few decades, but has also been hugely influential across the wider food and agri sectors [and] a passionate proponent for industry organisations working together more effectively.
“James’s drive and commitment and his vast knowledge of co-ops and co-operation is well-respected, not only in Scotland, but also in the rest of the UK and overseas. Passionate about SAOS’s work to improve and encourage farmer co-ops in Scotland, James was also key in the diversification of the organisation’s activities, and the team itself, broadening SAOS’s skills and expertise and building on the values of co-operation.”
The statement added: “There are very few people who have done as much for the Scottish supply chain, having had a lead role in some of the most important developments in the last 20 years including the development of Scotland’s livestock traceability system, ScotEID.”
Gareth Baird, director and former chair of SAOS, who announced James’s win, added: ”For a long time I have felt that James has been the most indispensable man in Scottish agriculture. His intellect, drive, resilience and humility have been of colossal and probably irreplaceable value to Scotland’s rural industries.
“We have been extraordinarily fortunate to have a man of his calibre at the helm of an organisation which is now the ‘go to’ body in times of both strife and development need for Government and industry alike.”
NFU Scotland CEO Scott Walker, who worked closely with Mr Graham throughout his time at SAOS, said: “James is a person who many people in the farming and food industry will have turned to at some point in time and he can justifiably claim to have played a part in the growth and success of many co-operative businesses and the development of many people who work in the industry.
“A strong advocate for the co-operative sector and its benefits, he has championed collaborative working and innovative ways to solve problems and issues. That made him a worthy winner of the NFU Scotland Ambassador award in 2019 and this latest recognition is equally deserved.”
SAOS’s current chair, Mark Clark, added: “In a quiet and professional way, James has been a driving force right across Scottish agriculture and his influence and intellect have been key to many successful developments and partnerships.”
Many of the past winners of the ERB award were present at the dinner, but were all saddened to hear of the recent passing of Brian Pack, who won the award in 2008.