Minister McIlveen visits Open Farm Weekend event at Crossgar

Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen visiting William Orr's potato farm at Crossgar during Open Farm Weekend. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen visiting William Orr's potato farm at Crossgar during Open Farm Weekend. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

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DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen has shown her support to Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend with a visit to William Orr and Son Home Farm outside Crossgar.

The family run business has been specialising in potato production for three generations. They plant around 200 acres every year and grow 14 varieties including Comber early Home Guards and Accords, starting the season with the famous Comber Earlies PGI using varieties such as Home Guard and Accord.

Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen with UFU president Barclay Bell and William Thompson, Bank of Ireland, on William Orr's farm at Crossgar during Open Farm Weekend. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen with UFU president Barclay Bell and William Thompson, Bank of Ireland, on William Orr's farm at Crossgar during Open Farm Weekend. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Mid season favourites include Queens, Melody and Squire. Popular main crop varieties like Maris Piper and Navan and many old niche varieties such as Kerr’s Pinks, Arran Victory (Blues) and Dunbar Standards are also grown. The company received a Gold Star in the 2014 Great Taste Awards for their Arran Victory – ‘Balls of Flour’.

William Orr and Son Home Farm was one of 23 farms that opened on Saturday 18th June whilst on Sunday 19th June, 15 farms participated across Northern Ireland. Other farms that participated included star of UTV Rare Breed series, James Alexander in Randalstown, Forthill Farm, Armagh Apple Farm, CAFRE Greenmount, Tickety Moo and Cavanagh Free Range Eggs in County Fermanagh.

The Minister said: “It was great to see such a large turnout of people participating in the fun-filled Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend. Members of the public visiting the 23 participating open farms across Northern Ireland got a unique insight into the workings of our farms and saw at first hand the processes involved in producing our food.

“When it comes to promoting local food and drink I have a very healthy appetite and it’s great that rural and urban dwellers alike have had this opportunity to learn more about what’s involved in being part of the farm to fork supply chain.

Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen visiting William Orr's potato farm at Crossgar during Open Farm Weekend. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen visiting William Orr's potato farm at Crossgar during Open Farm Weekend. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

“During our Year of Food and Drink 2016 we need to remain focused on building future resilience and sustainability right across the agri-food supply chain.

“I commend the Ulster Farmers Union and their partners for this initiative and I especially thank the participating farmers and their families for their enthusiasm, hard work and willingness to ensure the successfulness of the event in show casing our local products and the work of our agri-food sector.”

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend Chairman and UFU President Barclay Bell said: “We very much appreciated the Minister’s support visiting William Orr and Son Home Farm. The event has become key in our annual calendar as a means of showing and telling the public where and how their food is made. We would like to put on record our thanks to DAERA for all their assistance and financial support via the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme. We used funding this year to provide cookery demonstrations on some of the farms to help celebrate the Year of Food and Drink 2016.”

Bank of Ireland UK Head of Agriculture NI William Thompson added: “Richard Orr and his team have done a great job, as have all our participating farmers, to engage with members of the public over the weekend, and with school children through organised visits on Friday. We could not run the event without the willingness and enthusiasm from the farmers that sign up to be part of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend.”

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, the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, Food NI, and DAERA through the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme and CAFRE.

The event, in its fifth year, has attracted almost 60,000 people throughout that time.

For more information, visit the website www.openfarmweekend.com. You can also follow on Twitter @BOIopenfarm and like Open Farm Weekend on Facebook.