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Nominations open for farming awards

John Speakman with David Cooil last year

John Speakman with David Cooil last year

The search is on to find the island’s best farmers as nominations have opened for the government’s Farming for Tomorrow awards.

The Shoprite-sponsored annual awards aim to showcase the best farmers in the Isle of Man and highlight those who focus on tailoring their farming enterprises to meet the needs of customers.

Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture Minister Phil Gawne MHK said: ‘This award provides an opportunity to share best practice, to inspire others and to let people know more about the hard work that goes into producing the quality produce which we can all enjoy.

‘It helps to recognise those farmers who are already successfully re-aligning their farming businesses with market demand, and who usually have some very innovative ideas. We have many excellent Manx farmers so we look forward to receiving plenty of nominations’.

The key criteria for judging will be efficient farming, meeting the demands of consumers, promoting locally-sourced food, diversification and conservation of the environment.

The awards will be judged by Mr Gawne, Shoprite’s John Speakman, DEFA agricultural adviser Chris Kneale, Manx NFU president Brian Brumby and the president of the Royal Manx Agricultural Show, Alan Jones.

John Speakman, senior buyer for Shoprite, said: ‘This award is very important for the Isle of Man as it recognises the farmers who provide great quality, fresh produce which our customers want to buy.

‘Supporting local production is beneficial as it contributes to the local economy as well as providing long-term sustainability and traceability in our food supply.’

A shortlist will be selected from the entries, and farms will then be visited by the judges in July. The winners will be revealed at the Royal Manx Agricultural Show on Friday, August 8.

For last year’s winners, John and Alison Teare of Ballavir farm in Bride, it was a chance visit to Scotland that sparked their interest in Galloway cattle and led to a change from intensive farming methods.

John said: ‘We brought the first 12 heifers to the island in 2007 and it soon became apparent that we could change the way we farmed as they were far less time consuming, easy to calve, required less feed than the cross breeds and live outside all year round. We developed a seven-year business plan and began to convert the whole herd.’

‘We used to view our route to market as purely local; the Manx market is still very important to us but we also try to see ourselves as part of the UK using the internet and social media to market our products more widely.’

The judges’ special award for a young farmer in 2013 went to David Cooil at Ballacreggan Farm, Port St Mary.

David has won numerous grassland management awards over recent years, and recently represented the island in the northern UK round of the National Grassland Management Competition.

Farming alongside his brother Robert, David takes full advantage of the island’s good grass-growing conditions to help drive profitability and business performance. Their aim is to finish as many cattle as possible from grass, minimising the number requiring housing in late October.

Thanks to investment in water supplies, improving soil structure and increasing grass production, their finished cattle system supplies almost 140 head of cattle to Isle of Man Meats. David also farms 320 breeding ewes, lambing from the last week in March.

Send all nominations, including reasons for the chosen nomination and a brief explanation of how the farmer meets the selection criteria, to Audrey Fowler, Marketing Officer, DEFA, Thie Slieau Whallian, Foxdale, Isle of Man IM4 3AS or email audrey.fowler@gov.im

Nominations should be received by Friday, March 28.

 

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