Open Farm Weekend a chance to showcase our agri-food industry: McIlveen

Date published: 18 June 2016


The annual Open Farm Weekend is a great opportunity to promote our food industry and its role in supporting Northern Ireland’s economy.

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen sorts freshly-dug Comber potatoes with Anne Woods on William Orr and Son farm near Crossgar. The Minister visited during Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, where the farm was one of 23 open to the public.

The annual Open Farm Weekend is a great opportunity to promote our food industry and its role in supporting Northern Ireland’s economy.

That was the key message from Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen as she spent today (Saturday) with the farming community in Co Down.

The Minister visited potato growers William Orr and Son as part of the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend (BOIOFW). This third-generation family-run farm near Crossgar has a 60-year history in the potato business.

Miss McIlveen said: “William Orr and Son, along with 22 other farms across Northern Ireland, opened its doors to the public over the weekend. Visitors were able to see behind the scenes and meet those who spend their working lives tending the land. The farmers who grow crops and raise livestock are more than the starting point of the food chain. They are the custodians of our natural heritage and a key part of the Northern Ireland economy.

“The Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend is an opportunity to learn and understand the ‘field-to-fork’ story, and I particularly enjoyed this insight into potato farming at William Orr and Son. The production of potatoes in this part of the world is especially important as this area yields the famous Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Comber Earlies. I am also delighted that my Department has this year again been able to support the BOIOFW with its Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme, particularly as this is NI Year of Food and Drink”

The Minister also visited the Saintfield District Show at the Balmoral Park Complex.

Miss McIlveen said: “The summer shows are a key part of the agricultural calendar in Northern Ireland. They bring communities, both rural and urban, together in competition and camaraderie.”

Saintfield Show has been in existence since 1945. The Balmoral Park site has been the venue for the show for the last two years. The one-day event has a variety of livestock classes including a range of horses, beef, sheep, poultry, pigs and goats.

The Minister added: “These shows highlight the diversity, character and commitment of farmers across Northern Ireland. They also underline the vibrancy of the agri-food sector. As Minister, I have been eager to use this opportunity to engage with the rural community and hear first-hand their issues and concerns. But these events are also a celebration of local produce and husbandry – they provide a platform for the best this area, and this country, has to offer.

“I commend all those involved in organising the Saintfield District Show and wish those exhibiting a very successful Show.”

Notes to editors: 

All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email DAERA Press Office: Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned. 

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