Published February 2024

Illuminated tractor run shines light on Farmstrong Scotland

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Tractor runs have a huge following with many wellbeing benefits; connecting rural communities from sowing the seeds of the initial idea, organising and volunteering through to those who get behind the steering wheel to take part and - of course - not forgetting the enthusiastic crowds turning out to spectate.

We caught up with Alan Smurthwaite, who chose to put on a tractor run and highlight Farmstrong Scotland when he took over the reins as president of his local rotary club.

Born and brought up on a farm, Alan chose Farmstrong Scotland as one of three main beneficiaries - all with rural roots - to share the £5,000 raised by the Illuminated Tractor Run which set off from Dingwall Livestock Market for a scenic 12-mile run to Black Isle Showground and on to Inverness.

Alan, who is president of Inverness Riverside Rotary Club, teamed up with the Rotary Club of Dingwall and InverRoss Young Farmers’ Club to turn his tractor run dream into a reality.

“I have always enjoyed the Orkney Tractor Run and was determined to try and put one on when I became club president,” explained Alan, who ran an agricultural training business until Foot and Mouth Disease caused its closure in 2003.

“It was a nightmare time for so many people,” recalls Alan. “Because farmers could not meet up for fear of spreading the disease, I couldn’t run the training courses and the business was wiped out within three months.

“If Farmstrong had been around back then it might have been able to save a lot of people like me from feeling like they were on their own.”

Alan continued his career in training and eventually took a new path as a humanist celebrant for funeral services.

“In an agricultural community I have sadly seen at first-hand the sad stories of farmers who have been in need of help, so I am so pleased that more support is now available to them.”

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The two Rotary clubs that joined forces to run the event each kept £500 for distribution among their own worthy causes, with the remainder being divided between Farmstrong Scotland, the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institute (RSABI) and InverRoss Young Farmers’ Club.

“It was hard not to feel emotional when all the tractors set off on the run, all lit up they made such a spectacular sight,” remembers Alan.

“The young farmers’ club members were marvellous, both turning out in their tractors and with the organisation. I must also thank the hundreds of spectators who turned out to see the tractors and the helpers who worked tirelessly.”

Alan’s term of office ends in the summer and, as well as securing a repeat performance of the tractor run in December this year, he would like to leave the legacy of increasing Rotary Club membership.

“People are so busy these days we do struggle for new members,” he said. “I think the tractor run illustrates what good can come out of working together to help others.”

Interestingly, giving to others is one of the cornerstones of Farmstrong’s Five Steps to Wellbeing.

Clare Dickson, Community Engagement Specialist for Farmstrong who received the presentation cheque from the tractor run, said: “When you give your time to others, not only do they benefit but it will also make you feel a lot happier.

“What Alan and the team of Rotarians, volunteers and young farmers’ club members have achieved is a real inspiration. It only takes a quick look at the photographs from the event to see everybody who gave their time to others is smiling and enjoying themselves.”

Our thanks go to the Illuminated Tractor Run for donating £1,000 to Farmstrong Scotland which will be match funded by Movember, donating £2,000 to support the continuous development of the programme so farmers and crofters can live well, to farm and croft well. 

Farmstrong Scotland would also like to thank Ednam YFC who donated £500 in 2023 (match funded by Movember to £1,000), raised at their tractor run (pictured below), which saw the community come together to celebrate the club and its commitment to give back to the farming sector.  

Club member Katie Forster shared why the club is so passionate about the event, “This was the fourth annual tractor run that Ednam YFC organised. There were 85 tractors that participated and travelled around the Kelso area which was a brilliant way to promote Farmstrong Scotland. We chose Farmstrong Scotland because mental heath and wellbeing is such a profound issue circulating our industry, one which is caused by pressures which will not dissipate. The work that Farmstrong Scotland carry out to help farmers and crofters with the highs and lows of farming is something that Ednam YFC are proud to have supported by donating proceedings from our tractor run.”

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