A COUNTRYSIDE stalwart has been recognised with a unique award after almost eight decades of giving a voice to young farmers.

Olive Clarke, of Preston Patrick, became the first person to be made an ‘honorary life vice-president’ of the Cumbria Federation of Young Farmers, after 75 years of being part of the organisation.

“At my age it is an honour rather than a position that will see me out digging in the fields like some land girl,” she said.

“But an honour it most certainly is.

“I am not one for weeping – I’m a tough, old bird – but I was overcome with emotion when I found out.”

Mrs Clarke, who was celebrated at a meeting of the club on Friday, joined the Hutton branch of the federation in 1938 and won its first public speaking contest that year.

Since then she has been a tutor and adjudicator of public speaking competitions in a bid to empower the industry.

“It is so important that people have those skills,” she said.

“Farming has changed a lot in that it was a fairly inarticulate industry at one point and I wanted it to become articulate.

“It’s a big business now but it wasn’t then and I wanted to help improve that.

“I’m glad to say it has improved and the people with the voices can now lobby government and make changes to their own industry for the better.”

Mrs Clarke, who describes herself as ‘a stalwart of the countryside’, attended Kendal High School for Girls before marrying farmer Arthur Clarke, with whom she raised a family on Kaker Mill Farm in Preston Patrick.

The former county councillor is the county Federation of Young Farmers’ longest-serving member and took the role of Westmorland chairman in 1959 and Cumbria president in 1980.

Currently she is the Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria, a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of Great Britain, the president of the Witherslack Horse Show and patron of Cumbria in Bloom.

She was also the Westmorland County Show’s first female chairman in 1986 and has since been made a life member.

“I suppose I’m the ‘original’ member of the Young Farmers’ club,” she said.

“But I’m overwhelmed to be given this title.”

Mrs Clarke now says she has ‘absolute confidence’ in the future of the Federation of Young Farmers in the area.

“It has changed a lot over my time,” she added. “But membership of the club offers so many opportunities that I know it will continue to thrive.”