Agriculture takes centre stage on its big night

The very best of the Northern Ireland agriculture sector was put in the spotlight on Thursday night at the fifth annual Farming Life and Danske Bank Awards held at the Ramada Plaza, Belfast.

The gala presentation evening was attended by 300 guests, including leading industry figures, elected representatives and most importantly local farmers.

Guest speaker on the night was Finance minister Arlene Foster.

Addressing the audience, Minister Foster said: “The Executive is committed to doing everything possible to support farmers in Northern Ireland through the immediate financial crisis but also to face the longer-term challenges.

“We need to continue to work collaboratively with our farmers, processors and retailers to lay the foundations upon which we can build a more innovative, competitive and most importantly sustainable agri-food sector for the future.

“That is how we will become more resilient in a competitive and volatile, global market. It will also leave our farmers well placed to meet the needs of a growing global population – and to reap the rewards.

“I am committed to working with my Executive colleagues, producers and the processing sector to secure that sustainable future for farming in Northern Ireland.”

Among the prizes presented on the night was the Lifetime Achievement Award which was presented to Hugh Barr MBE from Aghadowey.

Minister Foster said: “International ploughing champion Hugh Barr is a worthy-winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hugh has shown a life-long commitment to farming and his early participation in ploughing contests saw him achieve international recognition when he became the only person, in the history of the World Ploughing Contest, to win the title for three consecutive years.

“Hugh has given selflessly of his time and expertise to coach others and raise the standard of ploughing not only locally but globally.”

The Farming Life and Danske Bank Awards have become firmly fixed as a highlight of the local agricultural calendar.

Farming Life editor Ruth Rodgers congratulated the winners and praised the standards of the entries received this year.

“We have been delighted by the success of the 2015 Farming Life and Danske Bank Awards, particularly the standard of entries across the various categories.

“I offer my congratulations to the winners and to everyone who took part in this event which celebrates the best of local farming.”

The winners:

Poultry farmer of the year: Winner – James Carey, Martinstown, Co Antrim. Highly commended – Kingsley Jordan, Waringstown

Farm supplier/machinery company of the year: Winner – JMK Quads, Banbridge. Highly commended – SlurryKat, Waringstown

Young farmer/student of the year: Winner – Geoffrey Malcomson, Glascar, Newry. Highly commended – Kerri McConnell, Hilltown

FQAS farmer of the year: Winner - Victor Patterson, Ballygawley. Highly commended – Jonathan Tuft, Ballinderry

Pig farmer of the year: Winner – Derek Warke, Clogher. Highly commended – Derek Patterson, Maralin

Commitment to training award: Winner – Ulster Wildlife, Belfast. Highly commended – James Baird, Lisburn

Arable/horticulture farmer of the year: Winner – David and Stewart Glass, Loughgall. Highly commended – Richard Kane, Limavady

Farm Safe award: Winner – William Sayers, Dunamanagh. Highly commended – Simon Best, Poyntzpass

Sheep farmer of the year: Winner – Allan Brady, Florencecourt. Highly commended – Tony McGrath, Dungannon

Wildlife farmer of the year: Winner – David Sandford, Strangford. Highly commended – David and Claire Foster, Derrylin; Brian Knipe, Ballymoney

Beef farmer of the year: Winner – Artie Birt, Portaferry. Highly commended – Gareth Corrie, Newtownards

Woman of excellence in Agriculture: Winner – Joy Rollston, Killylea, Co Armagh. Highly commended – Annie Boyd, Augher

Dairy farmer of the year: Winner – Beattie Lilburn and Sons, Dromore, Co Down. Highly commended – Christopher Catherwood, Newtownards

Farming champion award: Paula McIntyre

Small agri food business of the year: Winner – Milgro, Limavady. Highly commended – Abernethy Butter, Dromara

Agri-Food business of the year: Winner – Karro – Cookstown. Highly commended- Moy Park

Unsung hero of the year: Winner – Robert Wallace

Lifetime achievement award: Hugh Barr