Supporting agri ambitions and enabling customers to thrive

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​For more than a decade, Open Farm Weekend has been an important annual showcase for the farming industry of Northern Ireland.

This year, the event returns from June 16 -18 with farms across the province preparing to open their gates and provide visitors, especially those from non-farming backgrounds, with a wider understanding of what goes on behind the gate and how our local food is produced.

While it’s an event packed with fun-filled activities, the weekend underscores the importance of the growing agri-food sector to Northern Ireland’s economy and its why Bank of Ireland has been a proud supporter of the initiative since its launch in 2012.

George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, said: “A thriving agri-food sector is vital to our economy and at Bank of Ireland we are working to ensure we can provide the right supports to enable farmers and food producers to grow and meet the continued global demand for our quality produce.

“As consumers we don’t often see the work that goes on behind the farm gate and, through Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, we get the opportunity to help connect consumers with working farms so they can meet local farmers and see first-hand the energy, effort and determination that goes into creating quality produce that is enjoyed locally and internationally and which adds real value and is a key success story for our economy.”

Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine.

The active dairy farm covers some 100 hectares of grass land with a 180-strong herd which is currently milked twice daily and supplies a farmer-owned co-operative that process and makes various dairy products that are sold locally and across Europe.

George met Hugh alongside Richard Primrose, Bank of Ireland UK Agri-Business Manager, to find out more about the business as well as the challenges and opportunities farmers currently face.

Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine. Pictured on the visit is Richard Primrose, Agri-Business Manager, Bank of Ireland with Hugh Harbison and George Higginson.Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine. Pictured on the visit is Richard Primrose, Agri-Business Manager, Bank of Ireland with Hugh Harbison and George Higginson.
Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine. Pictured on the visit is Richard Primrose, Agri-Business Manager, Bank of Ireland with Hugh Harbison and George Higginson.

Speaking from the farm, Hugh said: “Farming has always been special to me, having grown up on the farm and working so closely with my father for so many years.

“I enjoy finding ways to make our farm more efficient and I am really passionate about the quality and standards of the products we produce. Every job and every industry has its challenges and we do what we can within our control to tackle those head on.

“We are always looking for ways to innovate and diversify to protect our income, which is why, alongside the farm, we are renovating the gate lodge to offer holiday accommodation to provide another revenue stream for the business which also showcases our rural location.

“For us protecting our income is important especially with continued volatility in the milk prices market, so we continually look for sustainable opportunities to help us secure the long-term future of our business.”

Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine. Pictured on the visit is Richard Primrose, Agri-Business Manager, Bank of Ireland with Hugh Harbison and George Higginson.Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine. Pictured on the visit is Richard Primrose, Agri-Business Manager, Bank of Ireland with Hugh Harbison and George Higginson.
Ahead of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships at Bank of Ireland, met with Bank of Ireland customer and dairy farmer Hugh Harbison at Aghadowey Farm based outside Coleraine. Pictured on the visit is Richard Primrose, Agri-Business Manager, Bank of Ireland with Hugh Harbison and George Higginson.

Hugh is also determined that famers have a story to tell in becoming part of the solution to climate change and the work towards net zero. They are one of the pilot farms involved in the ARC Zero project that has brought industry, government and academia together to look at reducing carbon emissions from dairy, beef and sheep farming.

He added: “Often farmers are seen as the problem when it comes to climate change, but through the ARC Zero project we are finding practical ways to measure, manage and reduce our carbon emissions here on the farm.

“There are lots of small ways that can make a big difference – from looking at the carbon captured by our hedgerows throughout the farm through to using data to optimise nutrients through natural flora such as clover and multi-species swards, all of which helps reduce our carbon footprint and which can be scaled across farms right across Northern Ireland.

“With so much happening on the farm I am delighted to have the support of Bank of Ireland to support our ambitions as a modern progressive farm. As a working farmer himself, Richard is not only the Bank’s Agri-Business Manager, it means he understands our business, the challenges we face and the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Helping agri-food customers to manage and reduce their carbon emissions and supporting their transition to sustainable practices is important to Bank of Ireland, with increasing numbers looking at support for solar panel installation and renewable electricity generation as early steps in their sustainable business journey.

It’s an area the Bank is keen to support, having had its own greenhouse gas emission targets validated by the Science Based Targets initiative in recent months.

Speaking about the bank’s continued appetite to support agri-food businesses, George Higginson, Managing Director Northern Ireland and U.K. Strategic Partnerships, Bank of Ireland, stated: “We are privileged to work with some of the best farming and food processing businesses across Northern Ireland who trust us to provide the right services and products at the right time to enable them to grow.

“We do not take their business for granted and recognise their continued commitment, resilience and exceptional work day in and day out to keep quality produce flowing across Northern Ireland and beyond.”

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend takes place from Friday 16 – Sunday 18 June.

Find out what local farm you could visit over the weekend at: www.openfarmweekend.com

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