profile: Douglas McTaggart
Current role: Farm Manager
Having been brought up on a mixed farm in the Scottish Borders, I went on to study at the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh, graduating with a degree in Agriculture and I knew all along that I wanted to pursue a career in farming and farm management.
On returning from travelling around Australia and New Zealand, I saw an advert for The Co-operative Farms Management Trainee Scheme in the farming press and decided to apply as it seemed to be a great opportunity to work in an organisation where I could quickly progress. The Co-operative Farms also farmed in my local area, so I knew they had a good reputation and local employees said they were good to work for.
After being successful in my interview at Stoughton, Leicestershire, I started on the scheme in January 2005. Following initial training at Stoughton, I was placed at Blairgowrie farm in Perthshire, working on the strawberry operations.
It was a steep learning curve and I was quickly given significant responsibility for much of the day to day running of the farm operations during the winter season. However I had regular contact with the Operations Manager for the area, and support from the arable farm manager.
During this period I was given Leadership Development Training, which at the time didn’t seem directly relevant. But as I took on further responsibility, I found myself putting elements into practice more and more and ultimately found it very relevant.
In October 2006 I was promoted to Farm Manager at Blairgowrie. My role now involves looking after the harvesting of 1000 tonnes of strawberries, quality testing, and the responsibility for around 200 seasonal workers over harvest time.
During the four years that I have been manager at Blairgowrie, I have overseen a substantial growth in the business. We have increased production from 600 tonnes to current level of production. This has involved substantial tunnel building programmers during each winter season.
Unusually, I didn’t move locations over my time on the scheme. This was partly due to business need, but also because my time at Blairgowrie has enabled me to develop a range of practical and managerial skills and the flexibility of the scheme has allowed me to follow my interest in fruit farming and rapidly progress in this field.