Against the impressive backdrop of Blenheim Palace, BBC Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison and Helen Ghosh, Director General of the National Trust, presented the National Trust Fine Food Produce Awards in the Cookery Theatre at BBC Countryfile Live.
The annual Awards celebrate the very best produce from the National Trust’s 1,500 tenant farmers and estates across Northern Ireland, England and Wales.
Mac Ivors Cider Company is celebrating winning one of the prestigious Awards for their medium and traditional dry cider.
Greg MacNeice’s family have farmed in Ardress, Co Armagh for over 150 years. He now manages Mac Ivors Cider Co and is earning many fans with the award-winning craft ciders.
Talking about the ciders, Greg explains: “We use tried and tested production methods to get as close as possible to the taste of a freshly picked apple. No preservatives or additives, just freshly pressed apples and yeast. Then we let nature takes its course.”
Sustainability is at the heart of the Greg’s ethos: “Not using insecticides is very beneficial to our native bumblebee population,” he says. “Which in turn is good news for our orchard. We’re just giving nature a helping hand.”
The MacNeice family traditions are in evidence throughout the orchard. From using predominantly traditional farming methods to protecting the orchard’s oldest residents.
“Among our hundred acres we have a couple of dozen trees that are over 125 years old, so we do everything possible to preserve them,” he says.
Rob Macklin, Head of Food and Farming said: “Now in its 11th year, our Fine Farm Produce Awards are setting an increasingly high standard for sustainable food production.”
Products not only have to excel in the obligatory taste test, but entrants also have to pass a checklist of environmental standards to guarantee the quality and origin of ingredients alongside high standards of production.
A judging panel of food and drink experts decided the winners – this year chaired by Richard McGeown, executive head chef of Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Cornwall.
This year 27 producers in total were recognised for 49 outstanding food, drink and countryside products ranging from fresh dressed crab and rump steak to raw milk and best bitter.
For more information about the awards and to find out more about this year’s award winning products and producers, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fine-farm-produce-awards