The search is on to find farms willing to open their gates and fields to participate in Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend 2016.
The event, in its fifth year, will coincide with the Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016 which is being co-ordinated by Tourism NI, supported by Food NI.
To begin the search for potential farm hosts, an event was held for the Guild of Agricultural Journalists at a regular Open Farm venue Hillstown Farm Shop in Randalstown.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union led initiative, principally supported by the Bank of Ireland, has been running since 2012 and has attracted almost 60,000 people throughout that time. It has also made important strides in helping promote food education through a dedicated schools programme.
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend Chairman and UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell said: “With 2016 designated as the Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland, we are looking for farmers to volunteer and help to tell their part of the food chain story to a wide and captive audience.
“This is an exciting time for our industry to really showcase our excellent produce and be part of this important celebration. From the small artisan outlets right up to the large scale producers, we want to hear from you if you would be interested in hosting this summer.
“In 2015, 21 farms opened their gates to the public and we would like to have a similar number participate in 2016 with a particular call to expand farm numbers in the west of the province, in the Tyrone and Fermanagh areas.”
Bank of Ireland UK Head of Agriculture NI William Thompson added: “We are delighted to continue our support of the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend especially given the NI Year of Food and Drink 2016.
“The initiative is a great marketing opportunity for food producers or those with farm diversification projects to open their gates. Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend helps educate people about how their food is produced and highlights the value of the agriculture sector to Northern Ireland.”
Food NI Chairman and 2015 Open Farm Weekend host John Best encourages farmers and artisan producers alike to take part.
“The range of food and drinks that our members are producing is more diverse than ever before. We have always had great raw ingredients but there is a growing number of artisans who are really pushing boundaries.
“As part of the Year of Food and Drink, each month celebrates the diverse aspects of our agri-food industry. January’s theme is breakfast month and we were treated to a wonderful breakfast today at Hillstown Farm Shop, who are Food NI members and recipients of the Great Taste Awards.”
There is a full programme of training and support in place for the 2016 initiative and project managers are on hand throughout the year to offer advice and guidance to participating farmers. To register your interest email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9037 0222.
The 2016 Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend will run on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June. For more information, visit the website www.openfarmweekend.com, follow on Twitter @BOIopenfarm and like Open Farm Weekend on Facebook.