SAOS hands honour to leading farm co-operator at its annual conference

Gareth Baird was recognised for his work with a host of co-ops and food, farming and rural organisations over the past four decades

The 2022 Ed Rainy Brown Memorial Award has been presented to Gareth Baird for his “truly exceptional” service to co-operation and collaboration in farming, food, and rural Scotland.

Mr Baird was presented with the award at the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) conference dinner at Dunblane Hydro on 31st March by Katy Rainy Brown.

Announcing the award, SAOS chair John Hutcheson said Mr Baird’s work – marked by “wisdom and good judgement, as well as his passion and enthusiasm” – has brought great benefit of a host of co-ops and food, farming and rural organisations over the past four decades.

Related: Report from the SAOS conference

Mr Baird is the only person to have led the organisation both as president, from 2000 – 2003, and then chair, from 2007 – 2009. Both the organisation and the team have grown considerably since his first stint, but three of the five project managers at that time are still with SAOS: Bob Yuill, Alan Stevenson and Hamish Walls.

Robin Barron, also present at the dinner, moved on to manage East of Scotland Farmers, and Dougie Watson has retired.

Also now retired, is SAOS’s chief executive for both of those terms, James Graham, who could not be at the event but was keen to add a tribute. He wrote: “There is no one more deserving of the award or who better personifies what the award is intended to recognise. You are quite simply one of the greatest co-operators of our age. This springs from your genuine willingness both to be of service in our community, and to shoulder the responsibilities of leadership. You embody what we know as co-operative values.”

Mr Graham described Mr Baird as a natural co-operator: “You make personal connections, you bring people together, and you provide the motivation, direction and leadership that bring results. And you do all this in a manner that is open, supportive, constructive, and co-operative.”

Mr Hutcheson said Mr Baird had encouraged SAOS to tackle issues beyond its co-op membership and to look further afield for ways that co-operation can benefit the wider agricultural and rural community. He added: “What is so evident to me is your exceptional ability to communicate with people at all levels as well as being able to think strategically with a real vision for our industry. On top of all this though, you are quite simply a thoroughly decent person and it is a huge personal pleasure to me to be able to announce this award.”

NFU Scotland CEO Scott Walker said: “Farming is an industry that needs constant innovation.  And Gareth has been an individual who, for many years, has been willing to lead change through collaboration.

“His involvement in Scottish farming and the rural community, the wider food supply chain and other sectors, means he has always brought a wealth of experience to all that he does. Co-operation can help farmers adapt and give them strength in the supply chain. Gareth is an individual who believes in co-ops and the collective strength they can give to individual farmers and embodies what this award stands for.”

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