FARMERS who participated in the seventh Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend were officially thanked for their efforts this summer at an event held on Tuesday, September 11, at CAFRE Greenmount.
Fourteen farms opened their gates and fields on Saturday, June 16, whilst on Sunday, June 17, nine farms participated across Northern Ireland.
Thirteen farms also opened their gates to primary school children on Friday, June 15, allowing over 1,200 pupils to learn more about the farm to fork journey of their food.
Outgoing Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend Chairman Barclay Bell said: “Once again, we had a tremendous amount of support from the public and we were encouraged seeing families getting out and about on our farms.
“Their experiences were enhanced by the effort the farmers went to arranging displays and demonstrations to help educate adults and young people about the industry and get a better understanding of where their food comes from.
“We are very grateful to all our farmers, and their families who supported them, for the time they devoted to getting their premises ready for the public.
“They all make a superb effort to ensure members of the general public have safe and informative visits, enhanced with warm hospitality via food and drink tastings.
“From our visitor evaluation feedback, we know that 47 per cent of our visitors attended BOIOFW for the first time, so in our seventh year we are still attracting new audiences.
“Many visitors visited multiple farms giving them insights into various sectors. An overwhelming majority said they would visit a farm next year, demonstrating the huge demand for this initiative that keeps growing year to year.”
Bank of Ireland Agriculture Manager NI, Richard Primrose, added: “As title sponsor, we want to add our thanks to this year’s hosts of Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend.
“Once again, our visitor feedback was extremely positive with 74 per cent rating their visit a 10/10 and 14 per cent 9/10. This is a reflection of the enthusiasm the farmers showed in making them feel welcome and giving them free and open access to the agri-food supply chain.”
During the evening, farmers were presented with a commemorative plaque to display in their yards. A presentation was also made to Air Ambulance NI after the farms raised £4,625 for the charity through fundraising on farms during Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, in support of the UFU’s Centenary Charity Appeal.
David Brown, the UFU’s Deputy President, was also introduced as the incoming Chairman.
Planning is underway for the 2019 event with dates confirmed as Friday (schools’ day), Saturday and Sunday, June 14-16.
The initiative will also be featured in the new series of BBC NI’s popular rural affairs programme Home Ground.
The episode, airing on Monday, September 24, will give a flavour of activities that took place at CAFRE Greenmount open farm event when exchange students from USA helped to welcome visitors to the County Antrim campus.
Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend is delivered by Ulster Farmers’ Union and is sponsored by Bank of Ireland UK and supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, NFU Mutual and ASDA.
The weekend would not be possible without the help and resources of Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, CAFRE, DAERA, the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, Food NI and the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme.