Talented young farmers have taken top spots at Scotland’s annual Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards.
18-year-old Andrew Dixon, farming apprentice from Duns in Berwickshire, won the agriculture category, with Alison Ritch, aged 31 from Stromness on Orkney, taking runner up.
Mr Dixon, who is studying towards a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in Mixed Farming at the family farm and Borders College, said the award had given him the confidence to ’go on and succeed’.
He said: "It’s great to win the Agriculture Learner of the Year Award.
"Having been brought up on a family farm, farming is well and truly in my blood, but I’m sure tonight’s award will give me the confidence to go on and succeed.
"I’d like to thank Andrew Johnson from Borders College as well as my dad and uncle for all their support over the years and I hope to make a success of the farm myself.”
Andrew was also one of six CARAS (Council for Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies) winners, which included agriculture trainees Lewis Mathison, aged 17 from Melrose, and Sophie Ward, 27, from Arbroath.
Joining them was Michael Rolfe, 19, from Braehead in Lanark, who won the Land-based Service Engineering student of the year. Steen Durno from Buckie took runner-up spot.
Sophie Ward recently completed a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Agriculture at SRUC Ayr. She graduated in June 2015 with Distinction and was voted the best first year agriculture student across all SRUC campuses for one of her graded unit projects.
She said: "Winning the CARAS award is a great feeling. I entered the agriculture industry with no previous knowledge or experience, so it just shows what you can achieve with a bit of enthusiasm and willingness to learn."
This year’s ceremony was attended by some of the sector’s leading figures and was hosted by Jim McLaren, former NFU Scotland President and current Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.
Chairman of the independent panel of judges, Ray Jones, said: “Every year the judges are inspired by the enthusiasm, vitality and determination to succeed from our candidates.
"These young people are going into tough employment markets and winning or even being short-listed for the Lantra Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards assists that future foothold into a long-term job.”