Northern Ireland’s farming industry was in the spotlight on Thursday night as the winners of the annual Farming Life and Danske Bank awards were revealed.
Around 300 industry figures, farmers and politicians attended the black tie event at the La Mon Country House Hotel, in the Castlereagh Hills.
British and Irish Lions, Ireland and Ulster rugby star Rory Best was on hand to congrulate all the winners and participate in a special question and answer session with Johnston Press sports editor, Richard Mulligan.
Among the winners was ‘unsung hero’ John Jardine from Rathfriland who had been nominated by last year’s winner Thelma Gorman, from Armagh, who tragically lost her life in a farming accident in September. She was a well known Simmental breeder.
The award was sponsored by Jim Nicholson MEP.
And Young Farmer/Student of the Year 2017 was Claire Beckett from Dromore,(sponsored by DAERA).
Farming Life editor, Dromara woman Ruth Rodgers, congratulated all the winners and praised the resilience of the Northern Ireland farming industry which has experienced a particularly difficult year due to challenging weather conditions.
The event has been sponsored for the past seven years by Danske Bank. Head of agriculture, Robert McCullough described the farming industry as the heartbeat of rural Ulster, ‘in the DNA of virtually everyone in the room and is recognised across the world for the quality and integrity of its produce and the innovation of its people’.
He added: “It’s also an industry which underpins our largest manufacturing sector, consistently punching above its weight and which is represented here tonight by a number of our largest agri-food companies.”
Other winners included: Wildlife Farmer of the Year 2017: Philip Bell, Ballynahinch (sponsored by RSPB). Woman of Excellence in Agriculture 2017: Libby Clarke (sponsored by Creagh Concrete) Poultry Farmer of the Year 2017: Cavanagh Free Range Eggs Ltd, Newtownbutler (sponsored by Moy Park), Farm Safety Partnership’s Innovation Award 2017: Safe-Shaft Systems Limited (sponsored by Farm Safety Partnership) Farming Champion Award 2017: Colin McDonald – RUAS (sponsored by Diane Dodds MEP)
Lifetime Achievement Award 2017: Jack Dobson (sponsored by Danske Bank)