Fantastic support for local farmers as public ‘get on their land’
The people of Northern Ireland donned their wellies and got ‘down on the farm’ at the weekend (23rd and 24th June, 2012) to show their support for the very first local Open Farm Weekend.
Organised by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Open Farm Weekend saw 13 farms across Northern Ireland opening up their businesses and inviting the public along free of charge, for a weekend of family farming fun, all with the aim of highlighting the story and hard work behind local food.
John Thompson of the UFU explains, “We are thrilled with the success of Open Farm Weekend, which, despite the unpredictable weather, brought people into the outdoors in their droves to find out more about our fascinating farming sector.
“We had 13 very different farms participating in the weekend showcasing our rich and varied agri-food sector; from dairy to arable, beef to apple orchards, mushroom farms to pork; and each farmer made their own event truly unique. The public seem to have really grasped the purpose of Open Farm Weekend as feedback from farmers tells us there was a real interest in exploring how the food cycle works – from ‘field to fork’. Visitors to farms were able to not only see behind the scenes and enjoy the various family activities, but often sample the end product – which we hope will make them think differently when they next buy local.”
Activities at participating farms included the ‘Hillstown Humdinger’ food challenge at Hillstown Farm in Randalstown, apple press demonstrations at Armagh Apple Farm, robotic milking displays at Oghill Farm in Killadeas, sheep shearing at Laurelview Farm, Templepatrick and a whole host of cookery demonstrations at various farms including the Waring Estate in Waringstown.
“We would hope that going by the success of this first Open Farm Weekend, several more farmers will show an interest in taking part so the event can grow and develop again next year. We would be keen to make this a key event in not just the agricultural sector, but the Northern Ireland events calendar as a whole, which farmers and families will look forward to supporting year on year.”
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill attended one of the farms, Laurelview Farm at Templepatrick, on Saturday. Speaking afterwards the Minister thanked her hosts Robert and Linda Davis and commended the UFU on their initiative to allow people to explore their local farm and learn about its history whilst exploring the land and interacting with the animals. She said, “I am pleased that visitors to the participating farms are able to interact with the farmers so as to learn firsthand how fulfilling and challenging farming can be. Visitors to the farms will get a unique insight into the workings of our farms and also see learn more about what’s involved in being an integral part of our agri-food supply chain.”
Open Farm Weekend is supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund; Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; Bank of Ireland UK and NFU Mutual.
Further information at www.openfarmweekend.com