Entries are now open for the annual Farming Life awards 2019, in association with Cranswick Country Foods.
A number of sponsors earlier this week attended the launch which was held at Brookhall Historical Farm, outside Lisburn.
They included representatives from Moy Park, Kerry Foods/Golden Cow, DAERA, HSENI, Alltech, Devenish Nutrition, Cookstown Karro, RSPB, Lantra, AJS Promotions, AFBI, La Mon Hotel and Country Club and Creagh Concrete.
Speaking at the launch, Farming Life editor Ruth Rodgers said the farming sector is a major contributor to the local economy employing thousands of people and the Farming Life Awards aim to recognise the talent, entrepreneurship and excellence that exists in the sector.
She added: “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.
“This year you will see that again we have wide range of categories covering every sector of the industry. And you will notice that some of the awards are slightly different than in previous years and we hope this will enhance the experience and interest for those entering and attending the awards gala later in the year. This year we hope to find the ‘farmer of the year’ who will be operating to the highest level of expertise across any sector of the industry, be it beef, dairy, poultry or arable.
“We will also be looking out too for a young farmer of the year – someone under the age of 40 from across all the sectors who is demonstrating ingenuity, creativity and excellence in their field. Innovation will also be under the spotlight, as we award a farmer from across all sectors who is going that extra mile in terms of the management or development of their business.
“As you all know, farming is not just a business it is a way of life and very much a family orientated affair. This year we will have a new award for the farming family of the year – a family of grandparents, parents, children or whoever who are working together on the farm or on the showing scene – all putting their shoulder to the wheel and demonstrating their team efforts in ensuring the success and promotion of their business.
“There will also be awards for a woman of excellence and student of the year – two areas which are key to the success of Northern Ireland’s family farm structure.
“Looking at the business sector we will have awards for agri food business of the year, artisan producer - an area which I’m sure you will agree Northern Ireland is really punching above its weight - and a new category for agricultural retailer or store of the year.
“As part of the awards we will also be recognising the best promotional agricultural event, local agricultural show or event, and efforts to enhance the environment and conservation, farm safety, and commitment to training. And as if that wasn’t enough there will also be the categories highlighting a special unsung hero and a lifetime of achievement in the agriculture industry,” added Mrs Rodgers.
“It’s hard to believe that we are now embarking on our ninth year of the awards and given the ongoing uncertainty due to Brexit and the constant attack on the industry by various pressure groups I’m sure you will agree that it is more important than ever that we highlight the good news stories and the value of our industry to society as a whole.
“I am very pleased today to welcome so many of our sponsors to this launch. Many of you have been on board as supporters right from the inception of the awards and we would like to thank you.
“In particular a big word of thanks to Cranswick Country Foods who are our associate sponsors again this year.
“Once again thank you for your support and I look forward to seeing you all at the La Mon Hotel and Country Club for our gala awards ceremony in October.”
UFU president Ivor Ferguson, who attended the launch, said the agriculture sector is a vital contributor to the local economy, providing employment and producing excellent produce.
He added: “The agri-food industry is a crucial export sector for Northern Ireland. The Farming Life awards gives those in the industry the recognition they deserve for the work they do every day.”
Speaking on behalf of DAERA, Steven Millar said: “Highly trained and educated young people entering the local agri-food industry is crucial to the development of successful businesses and future competitiveness.
“They bring energy, enthusiasm, new ideas, and are keen to adopt new technology.
“The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is committed to education and lifelong learning, and is delighted to sponsor the Agricultural Student of the Year Award.”
Full details of the categories, entry forms and a special promotional video can be found at www.farminglifeawards.co.uk or turn to page 33 for more information.