Huge Appetite For Farm To Fork Event

Record visitor figures of more than 21,000 proved that farming, food and family were the main ingredients for an action-packed day out as part of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend (Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June 2015).

dn_screenTwenty-one real, working farms across Northern Ireland opened their gates to help educate the public on the reality of farming and food production, successfully bridging the gap between rural and city life. Delivered by the Ulster Farmers’ Union and sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK, the event has been building momentum since it started in 2012 but this year’s attendance figures have broken all records.

“Once again, Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend has proved to be a winner for all involved,” said Barclay Bell, UFU Deputy President.

“We’ve been completely bowled over by the response from the public, particularly from families, as they’ve totally embraced the whole concept of the event. Food and its provenance are so important today, and there’s no better way to bring this to life than by meeting local farmers and experiencing what they do on a day-to-day basis.

“For many, this was the first time they’d set foot on a real farm so it was a unique opportunity to learn about important processes such as growing crops and milk production. One mum actually said that since visiting Brian Knipe’s dairy farm in Ballymoney, she will have a lot more respect for the carton of milk in her fridge.”

William Thomspon, Agri-Manager from event sponsor Bank of Ireland UK also extended his appreciation to the 21 farmers who made the event such a success:

“The farming community are at the heart of this initiative. We really appreciate their efforts in bringing the ‘farm to fork’ message to life by opening their gates and welcoming more than 21,000 visitors onto their land. It is particularly special as they are not only opening their business to public scrutiny, but also their homes.

“Each has invested a great deal of thought and effort to make sure their event is unique and engaging. Their innovative approach, using farm-walks and tours, demonstrations, picture boards, quizzes and story-telling has made Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend an overwhelming success.”

Food processors, local artisan producers and the retail sector also supported the farm to fork message by taking stands on the farms, explaining their connections to farming in NI, and sampling their product ranges. In the run up to the event, school children also visited the participating farms and had tours of Asda supermarkets to help them grasp the farm to supermarket process.

DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill was amongst the 21,000 visitors. Speaking from McClelland’s Farm at Clare Glen, an arable farm in Tandragee, Co.Armagh, Minister O’Neill said: “Through the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend initiative, people from both rural and urban communities have the opportunity to experience farm life and see at first hand the processes involved in producing our high quality food and learn more about our local farm to fork supply chain.

“It is great to see such a large turnout of people participating in this fun-filled weekend. I commend the Ulster Farmers Union and their partners for this initiative and I especially thank the participating farmers and their families for their enthusiasm, hard work and willingness to ensure that the event is successful in showcasing our local products and the work of our agri-food sector.”

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend 2015 was developed and delivered by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK and supported by Asda, NFU Mutual Insurance, The Prince’s Countryside Fund, , and Tesco. The initiative was also made possible thanks to the help, advice and support of Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, CAFRE, NIFDA, and Food NI.