DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen has commended the farmers who participated in Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend 2016 at an event held at CAFRE Greenmount last night to acknowledge their hard work.
Twenty three farms opened their gates and fields on Saturday 18th June whilst on Sunday 19th June, 15 farms participated across Northern Ireland. Regular hosts Cavanagh Free Range Eggs in County Fermanagh, Armagh Apple Farm and Rathmourne Pig Farm opened alongside nine new farm hosts including Cochranes Potatoes in Limavady and star of UTV Rare Breed series, James Alexander in Randalstown.
DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen said:
“Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend 2016 will certainly be one of the highlight events in our 2016 Year of Food and Drink calendar.
“The success of this event would not have been possible without the hard work and enthusiasm of our participating farmers and their families. Their willingness to open up their farms to the general public and share their day to day work on the farm, was key to building awareness of the care and dedication that goes into the production of our high quality local produce.
“The involvement of the food processors also played an integral role in completing the farm to fork story, allowing the public to taste and buy the food and learn of the importance of buying local.
“I congratulate the Ulster Farmer’s Union and all their partners for the organisation and delivery of this successful initiative and also commend Bank of Ireland on showing commitment to the agri-food industry through their provision of lead sponsorship.
“It is essential that we remain focused on building future resilience and sustainability right across the agri-food supply chain through such initiatives and I am pleased to learn that planning for the 2017 event is well underway.’’
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend Chairman and UFU President Barclay Bell said,
“We appreciate the Minister coming to our event and adding her support to the initiative. It is important we take the opportunity to thank our farmers, and their families, for the time they devote to getting their premises ready for the public. They all make a tremendous effort to ensure members of the public enjoy their visit and get to know more about where their food comes from.
“Each year, we ask our visitors to fill in an evaluation form. We are seeing that many people who are not from farming backgrounds are making repeat trips to farms as Open Farm Weekend gives them the opportunity they don’t otherwise have. In turn, this confidence they have in the farming practices they see first-hand makes them actively seek to buy local produce.”
Bank of Ireland UK Head of Agriculture NI William Thompson added,
“As title sponsor, we fully appreciate the dedication farmers show when they commit to be part of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend. Our visitor feedback was extremely positive with 75% rating their visit a 10/10. We know this is down to the enthusiasm the farmers showed in making them feel welcome over the weekend and letting them see food production on their farm.”
During the evening, farmers were presented with a commemorative plaque to display on their premises.
The initiative, now in its fifth year, was recently a recipient at the GrowMakeEatDrink Awards winning best food/drink promotion by a festival or event.
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend is delivered by Ulster Farmers’ Union and is sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK and supported by Tesco, The Prince’s Countryside Fund, NFU Mutual and ASDA. The weekend would not be possible without the help and resources of Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, CAFRE, DAERA, the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, Food NI and the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme.