Simon opens the door to farm specialising in porridge oats

Local provenance and food sustainability will be key messages at Acton House Farm in Poyntzpass during the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 18th June 2022, 7:00 am

Acton House Farm in Poyntzpass is run by fourth generation farmer, Simon Best whose great grandfather started the farm in 1921. 

At that time, it was primarily a pig and beef farm and has since evolved into a mainly arable farm growing cereal crops including oats which have been grown for White’s Oats for the past 30 years.

White’s Oats is a County Armagh based oat miller and has been milling and producing natural, healthy and unprocessed oat breakfast cereals since 1841. Its mill is situated approximately five miles from Acton House Farm in Tandragee, allowing for a short supply chain and thus vastly reducing its carbon footprint and also its food miles. 

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Simon Best, a former Ulster and Ireland rugby international, from Acton House Farm who is currently the UK Arable Farmer of the Year, says: “Understanding how your food is grown, where your food comes from and having trust in the quality of your food still remains key consumer decision points, as does whether it’s been grown ethically and with nature in mind. The close proximately between our farm and White’s helps us to meet these requirements and give consumers peace of mind in the food they are eating.”

Acton House has focused on nature friendly farming for more than 20 years, striving to combine a production led arable system with sustainability. Interventions taken include rough grass margins, pollen nectar mixes, wild bird seed crops, increasing hedgerows, and tree planting. The farm produces green waste compost for use on the land. It’s a LEAF farm that align the interests of the environment with producing for the local community.

This local provenance and food sustainability will be key messages that the Acton House Farm and White’s Oats’ teams were being communicated to the public during the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend. It is one of the biggest free awareness initiatives of its kind and will be making a welcome return back on farms across Friday, June 17-Sunday 19 with visitor numbers predicted to be 20,000 on the farms across the entire three days. 

The initiative is led by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, with the support of Bank of Ireland, Asda, NFU Mutual, Livestock and Meat Commission Northern Ireland, Moy Park, Fibrus and Irish Farmers Journal and will see Acton House Farm open to the public from 9.30am-4.30pm.

There will be plenty to keep the family entertained such as cookery demonstrations, environment initiatives and machinery on display alongside White’s Oats sampling their delicious products. 

The aim of the initiative is “to reconnect the public with where their food comes from and enable them to meet the farmers and processors who produce it”.

Danielle McBride, marketing manager for White’s Oats, adds: “As a local company we are very proud to have such great partners in our growers which allows us to source 100 percent of our conventional oats from Irish farms such as Acton House Farm. Consumers are making a conscious effort to embrace sustainability in their shopping baskets and our partnership with Acton House Farm reinforces how committed we are in providing sustainable products, and not just nutritionally but in everything we do from farm to bowl. 

“There is a huge amount of transparency and human connection across our supply chain between White’s and its growers and this level of care, passion and expertise comes through in the consistently high-quality standard of our oats. 

“We encourage the public to visit the farm during the Open Farm Weekend to hear more about our long-standing grower partnerships and also sample our oats which are packed great flavour, taste and nutrition.”

White’s Oats is a market leading and award winning brand based at the mill in Tandragee since 1841. The company, part of Fane Valley Co-operative, employs more than 50 staff at its site in Tandragee and exports to global markets including the Middle East. Fane Valley is planning to develop a state-of-the-art mill for White’s Oats in the Portadown area.

White’s has worked hard at forging alliances with local oat farmers like Acton House Farm which grow to exacting standards. White’s produces a wide range of porridge oats and oat based breakfast cereals for retail, food service and the ingredients sector of the food market. It exports its oats to China, US, Middle East and many European markets.

White’s has collected a host of prestigious awards including Chartered Institute of Marketing Ireland - Marketing with Impact within the Food and Drink Industry 2015; Ulster Grocer Marketing Award for best new product launch 2015; UK Great Taste Gold Awards; Blas na hEireann, Irish National Food and Drink Awards Gold, Silver and Bronze Award; and Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards – winner in cereal category.