Event ready to shine a spotlight on our farms and food producers
NOW in its tenth year, Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend (BOIOFW) has become one of Northern Ireland’s leading events for shining a spotlight on our farms and food producers.
Taking place virtually again this year from Friday July 30 – Sunday 1 August, one of its original participants Linda Davis from Laurel View Farm, Templepatrick explains the changes she has seen over the past decade, the importance of the event in helping to connect the public with the local farming community and why the virtual format is helping to reach a wider audience than ever before.
Linda and husband Robert operate a beef and sheep farm, specialising in Irish Moiled Cattle, they credit BOIOFW with helping to promote their produce and for creating a sense of community among the participants.
“From the very start we thought it was a great idea,” explains Linda. “It’s a lot of work but it’s so enjoyable and it’s very rewarding to be able to open up and showcase what we do to the public.
“We have three daughters and they’re enlisted to help, as are our parents and friends, plus we get great support from our local Young Farmers’ Club so it’s all hands-on deck but there’s a great buzz to it.”
It’s the reaction from the public that gives Linda the greatest sense of satisfaction and highlights just how important the event itself is.
“We’re just ten miles from Belfast so in normal circumstances we’d have people coming from the city who’s never seen a calf before or who doesn’t realise where their milk comes from – they think they get their milk from a plastic container in the supermarket and have never thought beyond that.”
She continued: “Everybody needs to know where their food comes from and the biggest thing any of us can do to support our environment and our industry is to buy the meat that’s born and reared down the road rather than flown in.
“BOIOFW does so much to help people think about and appreciate the attention to detail and pride that Northern Ireland farmers put into their work and produce.”
With a packed schedule planned for this year Linda believes BOIOFW’s virtual format has brought with it a host of benefits.
“Of course, we’re looking forward to being able to welcome members of the public back on to our farms but I was blown away by how well last year’s virtual format worked and I’m excited to see what this year brings,” she said.
“The virtual event is great because it gives us a chance to connect with other farms outside our area and there isn’t a massive set up to participate; there are all sorts and sizes of farms from around the Province taking part and it’s fantastic to see what everyone is up to.
“This can be an isolating and stressful job and events such as this remind us all we’re not alone. Plus, it means the weather can’t mess it up for us!”
While a virtual farming event may have seemed implausible a few years ago the advancements in technology mean it can now happen at the click of a button and Linda believes this digital era has brought many benefits to the agri-food sector.
She explained: “Technology has been one of the biggest changes in this industry over the past decade and has helped things move on so far in farming.”
Echoing the importance of supporting local and moving with the times is David Hunter, a graduate from CAFRE, a participant in Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend through its Greenmount and Enniskillen Equine campus.
David’s training saw him complete placements in Aberdeenshire and New Zealand and in 2016 he was recognised in The LacPatrick Milk Quality Awards by being awarded the Farm Development Award.
Explaining how his time at CAFRE helped to set him for a successful career David said: “I was very fortunate with the training I received. I’d never considered milking cows until I went to Greenmount – it was my placement in New Zealand that first got me interested in it but every aspect of the course was relevant and helped to give me a good standing in this industry.
“Northern Ireland has some of the best farms and farmers in the world and produces world-class produce. We have a reputation to be proud of and establishing links within the farming community are so important as is this what helps us to advance and move forward.
“Through Young Farmers and CAFRE I have built up a fantastic support network from all corners of Northern Ireland and I can see how events like BOIOFW are vital for connecting people.”
Connecting farms with consumers is something Barclay Bell, Moorfield Farm owner and former Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend Chairman is passionate about and something he believes the event has cultivated over the last 10 years.
He said: “When I look at Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend in 2021 I can see how keen farmers are to open their doors and connect with the public and give them a snapshot of their hard work and dedication.
“The agricultural sector can come under criticism and I think farmers are responding to the challenge by telling people about the great story they have to tell in terms of delivering for our environment as well as producing great quality local food.
“I am looking forward to returning to BOIOFW again this year and the virtual aspect will be different, but I’m delighted to see how far the event has moved on in the last 10 years. I feel confident and proud that BOIOFW is achieving what we set out to do back in 2012.”
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend has evolved into a fantastic family fun event hosting thousands of visitors over the years, and title sponsor Bank of Ireland is delighted to continue its support in this its milestone year.
Bank of Ireland Agri-Business Manager, Richard Primrose said:“Being part of this event demonstrates our commitment to see the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland, which employs thousands of people, develop and grow to produce world-class food to the highest environmental and production standards. Farming is a dynamic industry which is constantly changing to meet the needs of the public and consumers, and like all involved, we want to see sustainable growth and success of this industry supported by local and international sales.
“Our successful delivery of services to the agri-sector over the past 10 years has been built around an in-depth knowledge of the sector. We have witnessed a growing demand from consumers for locally produced food - consumers care about where and how their food is produced and are keen to support our local economy enabling local businesses and communities to thrive.
“We’re looking forward to this year’s event and a huge gratitude of thanks goes to the many farms that have opened their gates to the general public over the past 10 years for Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend.
“Without their commitment, this event would not have been able to continue and become the success it is today.”
Follow Open Farm Weekend social media for updates or www.openfarmweekend.com