Commenting after attending Armagh Apple Farm as part of the Bank of Ireland Open Farm weekend, DUP MEP Diane Dodds has reiterated the need for farmers to engage with the public to demonstrate the value and importance of agriculture, the environment and food production in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Dodds was joined on the visit by DUP colleague and Chair of the NI Assembly Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA.
Mrs Dodds said: “It was a pleasure to be able to visit the Troughton family farm outside Portadown at the weekend.
“It was really encouraging to see the number of visitors and the enthusiasm to learn more about the farm and the work which they do.
“The Open Farm weekend provided an excellent opportunity for rural and city dwellers to have unique access to 21 farms across Northern Ireland.
“The Bank of Ireland Open Farm weekend has been an extremely successful event in the farming calendar over the past few years, with huge numbers of people in attendance.
“We are extremely privileged in Northern Ireland to have a population which in general is only a few generations removed from their agricultural roots.
“If agriculture is to be respected and supported we must ensure people understand what farmers do and how our food is produced.
“Marketing is the name of the game both when selling the products we produce as well as in giving the public a greater understanding of what actually happens on farms.
“It is becoming more and more important that the agri-food sector highlights the benefits and importance of buying local.
“Food in many cases is becoming more of a commodity product rather than a must have to live.
“Interaction with the public, including initiatives such as the Open Farm weekend, helps to re-engage people, which can only be welcomed.
“Over recent years we have seen friction between the public and farmers which needs to be addressed - and with a focus on food rather than farmers.
“Lastly I would like to thank all those farmers who have willingly participated in the Open Farm Weekend and I hope next year will be an even better success.”
DUP MLA William Irwin added: “I had the opportunity to visit two farms on Saturday – Troughton’s apple farm and also Tim McClelland’s arable farm in Tandragee.
“The open farm weekends are important in terms of showing to the wider public the process of actually providing the food we all enjoy eating and at both farms the public certainly responded with many families through the gates to experience farming and what it involves.”