Four local producers for Marks & Spencer have been rewarded for their excellence in farming at a M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ Awards presentation, which took place at the Balmoral Show.
The winners were:
· Innovation Award – Tom Forgrave from Ballymoney, Co. Antrim
· Outstanding Producer Award – Larry Nugent from Tassagh , Co. Armagh
· Contribution to Rural Communities Award (Prince’s Trust Countryside Fund) – Crosby Cleland from Saintfield, Co. Down
· Young Producer Award – William Gilpin from Loughgall, Co. Armagh
Tom Forgrave is responsible for all business and financial decisions for the family’s high welfare broiler chicken farm. With 160,000 bird places, the family has expanded the business in recent years, alongside cereal growing and Christmas tree production. His methodical approach to farming has enabled the business to grow in a profitable and sustainable manner, and the farm is currently in the top 15 per cent of poultry producers in Northern Ireland based on profitability.
Larry Nugent runs an 80-hectare farm with the help of his family, where he produces beef for M&S supplier, Linden Foods. Two years ago, having taken part in a sustainable beef initiative, Larry made the decision to change his approach to beef farming. Therefore, in conjunction with his beef advisor, he started looking at ways of producing beef more efficiently from grass by changing his grazing system.
Crosby Cleland produces lamb on his 76 hectare farm on the outskirts of Belfast. His lamb rearing enterprise is based on a flock of 750 ewes, the majority of which are pure or cross-bred Lleyns.
A key focus for Crosby is to maximise the use of his pasture; carefully managing clover and grass growth to ensure the best quality and supply of forage for his sheep to feed on. Despite the significant demands of running his business, Crosby has played a highly active role in the local area, helping to educate those from outside the agricultural community about sheep farming.
Gilfresh Produce was established more than 50 years ago by the Gilpin family. Initially the business grew and packed whole head vegetables for local markets but, over the years, the business has been developed to supply multiple retailers and food service providers. Currently, the business produces loose and retail-packed carrots and other vegetables for use as ingredients by Avondale for M&S.
Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S said: “The Farming for the Future awards are now in their ninth year, acknowledging the dedication and commitment our farmers and growers are making towards Plan A and sharing best practice amongst the agricultural community across Ireland and the UK.
“We have four very worthy winners and they have proved this by demonstrating their innovative thinking, commercial success and social responsibility in the way they manage and execute their businesses.”