Ballymoney Show is fast becoming a vital shop window for the food industry throughout its catchment area, according to North Antrim Agricultural Association president Frank McClure.
“This is the second year at which a food pavilion has featured at our event – and it is proving to be extremely popular with both exhibitors and visitors,” he said.
“This year we have Garreth Wilson, head chef at Titanic Belfast, on hand to host cookery demonstrations throughout the day, plus a host of local artisan food businesses promoting their wares.”
Mr McClure was speaking as he took Farm Minister Michelle McIlveen on a guided tour of this year’s event.
He added: “The development of the food pavilion concept has been made possible by the support received from the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme. And we want to build on this for the future.
“Farming and food go hand in hand. Consumers want to know more about how their food is produced. And events, such as Ballymoney Show, can play a key role in this regard.”
This year’s show was attended by politicians and activists espousing the virtues of the UK either staying in or coming out of the EU.
Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan, who represents the South East of England in the European Parliament, said that farmers in Northern Ireland will be better off outside the EU.
“The money which the UK saves by coming out of Europe can be used, in part, to support its farmers,” he said.
Mr Hannan was countered by the SDLP’s Connor Duncan, who claimed that Northern Ireland is always left with the crumbs off the table when it comes to Westminster budgetary decisions, adding: “The EU is good for farming. There is no guarantee that Westminster will make up for the loss in EU farm subsidies, should Brexit become a reality.”
The show rings at Ballymoney saw the McLean family from Bushmills notch up a Co Antrim double with their elite Holstein cow Priestland 5232 PS James Rose.
The same animal carried the day in Ballymena the previous week.
Judge Lindsay Fleming described his champion as an excellent example of the Holstein breed.
“She is a cow with tremendous scope and an exceptional rear udder,” he added.
The beef interbreed championship was won by the Dorman family, from Dungannon, with an eye catching Beef Shorthorn bull. He is a half-brother to the 2015 Balmoral Supreme Beef Champion.
Judge Robert Johnston described the bull as having tremendous length and poise.
Ballymoney always attracts a very large turnout of sheep – and 2016 was no different in this regard.
The interbreed championship was won by Ballymena breeder Libby McAllister with her choice Beltex shearling ewe. The animal was sired by the noted ram Rathbone Tony.
Judge Alastair Wylie, from Stirling in Scotland, described the champion as an excellent example of the Beltex breed.
“She has great presence; a real eye-catcher,” he said.