The Farming Life Danske Bank Awards have become a key date in the Northern Ireland farming calendar.
The event has continued to grow from strength to strength following its inception in 2011.
Principal sponsor is Danske Bank, with a wide range of category sponsors, representing all sectors of the industry, including the Ulster Farmers Union, Moy Park, Simple Power, Cookstown, Alltech, Tesco, The Livestock and Meat Commission, AJS Promotions, Zoetis, the RSPB and MEP Diane Dodds.
New sponsors this year include Creagh Concrete, Lantra Awards and the Farm Safety Partnership.
Farming Life editor Ruth Rodgers said the annual event is one which the Johnston Press owned News Letter/Farming Life is incredibly proud of.
She added: “The farming sector is a major contributor to the local economy employing thousands of people and the Farming Life and Danske Bank awards aim to recognise the vast talent, entrepreneurship and excellence that exist within the sector.
“As the theme of the awards suggests we are celebrating excellence in farming and giving well deserved recognition to the best farmers and farming businesses in the industry.
“These awards are unique in that they are the only ones in Northern Ireland which recognise the contribution of the primary producer - the farmer - with eight farming awards covering all the main sectors. Added to this we will be recognising the many commercial businesses involved in the farming sector with three business awards covering agri food, machinery/farm suppliers and training.
“We have three categories paying attention to particular sectors within farming - farm safety, women of excellence in agriculture and young farmer/student of the year. And finally there are three special recognition awards - unsung hero, farming champion and lifetime achievement.”
This year’s awards will feature two new categories focusing specifically on farm safety and skills and training.
Mrs Rodgers continued: “Farming Life is delighted that Danske Bank is again principal sponsor of these awards and indeed the bank has confirmed their support will continue right through to our awards in 2017. I would like to thank Danske Bank for that continuing commitment and also for their input in the event each year which is so pivotal to the success of the awards and the gala ceremony as a whole.
“I would like to thank all the other category sponsors for their support too which, I hope, demonstrates the value that you place on the awards and the opportunity it provides for you to communicate the positive role that you play, as individual organisations and companies, in the promotion of your own sector as well as the wider industry in what is a tough time economically for many.
“This year our awards ceremony will take place on Thursday, 29th October in the Ramada Plaza, Shaws Bridge, Belfast, and I am sure you will agree this is an excellent venue and a fantastic backdrop for the event. Indeed this year we are delighted that the Ramada Plaza has come on board as the venue partner.
“On the night of the awards itself we will be giving away a £500 voucher kindly donated by the House of Frazer at Victoria Square for the best dressed lady. This certainly proved very popular last year and the judges had a tough task deciding between the glamorous ladies there on the night.”
Speaking on behalf of Danske Bank, John Henning, head of agricultural relations said the inaugural awards in 2011 were an undoubted success and provided a wide-ranging celebration of achievement in the agri-food industry.
He added: “And we are proud to have played a part in helping develop these awards which continue to go from strength to strength.
“Farming and food have never been more in! Today we have an industry where output from farming approaches £2bn; turnover from food and drink processing exceeds £4.5bn; the share of total employment is significant and which continues to attract record numbers of young people to study agriculture, equine, food and horticulture.
“At Danske Bank we are proud of our credentials as the farmers bank’ and very conscious of the responsibility we have to continue supporting generations of farmers and businesses, by delivering dedicated relationship banking, as we have done in the past. This is particularly important at the present time with so many farming sectors facing very real challenges associated with global commodity prices and uncertainty around CAP reform, ” said Mr Henning.
“Once again, in partnership with Farming Life, we are delighted to support these awards that showcase what’s great about our agri-food industry and help recognise those individuals, families and businesses that are at the very top of their game.
“The Farming Life Danske Bank Awards are about “celebrating excellence in farming” and across all of the farming, business and special recognition categories the competition seeks to recognise talent and excellence using a wide range of criteria that should matter to all of those who make their living in this industry.
“It was John F Kennedy who said Our farmers deserve praise, not condemnation; and their efficiency should be a cause for gratitude, not something for which they are penalised’.
“But the awards are not just about celebrating excellence in farming but also promoting NI Agriculture plc to an increasingly sceptical or critical audience. The challenges facing our industry are many and often driven by special interest groups with their own agendas - questioning animal welfare, industrial farming, the environment, GM, rural access and so on. So I really believe these Awards can help dispel some of these myths and deliver an even more positive image for the brand - NI Agriculture plc.
“This year we have several new categories and we welcome the sponsors of these awards - the Farm Safety Partnership and Lantra - and of course the established sponsors and others supporting existing categories. And we continue to explore new and exciting ideas to raise the profile of the awards - so watch this space - and don’t forget #FLDB2015, ” added Mr Henning.
“And of course the climax of the Farming Life & Danske Bank Awards allows us all to recognise a lifetime of achievement and contribution to the world of agriculture.
“So on behalf of Danske Bank - today represented by my colleague Seamus McCormick, Agribusiness Manager based in Ballymena; and myself - can I commend these Farming Life & Danske Bank Awards to you.
“We hope you will encourage even more entries from your colleagues, friends, neighbours, suppliers, customers and others - right across the industry - to build on the success of these Awards to date and help us all to celebrate Northern Ireland’s farming life.”
For more details on the categories and