BY MARTIN CLAFFEY
THE best of Irish farming was celebrated at the Southern Star West Cork Farming Awards lunch at the Celtic Ross hotel in Rosscarbery.
Some 150 guests paid tribute to the award winners who came from various parts of the farming community across the south west.
Cllr Declan Hurley deputised for county mayor Frank O’Flynn, and he was joined by many West Cork political representatives. Cllr Hurley spoke in glowing terms about the awards and their place in the farming calendar.
Gerard Condon of lead sponsor ifac also hailed the success of the awards.
Indeed there was a common thread in the words of all the speakers: that while the farming sector faces unprecedented challenges, the West Cork Farming Awards shine a light on the good news stories across the region and indeed Ireland’s agriculture, showing the huge advances being made in areas of sustainability and responsibility.
Southern Star managing director Seán Mahon paid tribute to all of the award winners, who he said epitomised the best of West Cork farming. He also paid tribute to the local businesses that have sponsored and partnered with the Southern Star for the awards.
‘That support helps us keep evolving and hopefully improving these awards,’ he said. Seán also had a special word of thanks for the judging committee of the awards including JJ Walsh who has been part of the farming awards judging panel for many years now and also to Dr Grainne Hurley, regional advisory manager from Teagasc.
A special word of thanks also went to Sandra Maybury for her work with the event.
Celtic Ross Hotel general manager Neil Grant said the hotel is delighted to join with The Southern Star in making the event such a success. ‘The Southern Star and The Celtic Ross Hotel first partnered together to put them on back in 2014 with the sole intention of recognising, promoting and celebrating the men, women, families, agri-businesses and agri-organisations that make farming such a vital part of West Cork life and community,’ he said.
With magician Gerard Kearney keeping all of the guests guessing with his trickery, there was a palpable feel-good factor in Rosscarbery.
Of course it was the award winners who were the cause of celebration. First to be honoured was Katie Shanahan. When she’s not working on her family farm in Leap, Katie is either teaching Irish dancing, recording segments for the agri TV show she presents, or promoting farming on her social media accounts or studying for her masters in marketing. She documents life on her family farm across TikTok and Instagram where she’s motivated to show young girls – and boys – the opportunities that exist to pursue careers in agriculture.
Katie was unable to attend as she was representing Carbery Macra in the Macra Queen of the Land contest, so the award was presented to her parents Raymond and Sheila on her behalf.
June’s award winner was Dermot Kelleher, the president of the ICSA. Dermot, from Inchigeela, has been a champion of farming and rural life for decades.
Kitty Cotter was July’s winner. When Kitty Cotter was asked to help out the Dunmanway Show committee as secretary, she readily agreed but there was one condition – she’d do it for just one month. That was 26 years ago, and this summer she oversaw another hugely successful show day.
August’s winner was Ronald Shorten from Clonakilty. Ronald who farms with his son Brian and wife Betty, has been lauded for being a frontrunner in embracing sustainable farming practices, and is a shining example of the forward thinking in West Cork farming, carrying on a proud tradition started by Ronald’s grandfather in the 1930s.
September’s winner was Pat Moriarty, ceo of Lisavaird Co-op, who has retired recently after a highly successful career spanning four decades.
The October winner was Ian Kingston. The farm has been in the Kingston family since 1911 and Ian’s love for farming and animals was cultivated from an early age. Ian, a Drinagh co-op supplier, is no stranger to winning awards and he was the overall winner of the 2022 Carbery Milk Quality and Sustainability Awards and he was finalist in the recent NDC Kerrygold Quaility Milk Awards.
The O’Donovan family in Bealad, Clonakilty were the winners of the Farming Family Award. It’s a fourth generation farm, located at Bealad. Set up by John Matt O’Donovan, it was passed to his son John Paul and is now in the safe hands of John Andrew. It was his commitment to ensuring a legacy for the next generation that saw the family launch ‘Clonakilty Glamping’.
And the winner of the Hall of Fame award was Andy Mahon, the powerhouse who set up Bandon Vale Cheese, starting out in a production unit in the town’s Watergate Street way back in 1994. Today the business has expanded to a €2m purpose-built facility in Lauragh and provides employment for around 300 people.
Recently retired, Andy is originally from Monasterevin in Kildare, growing up on a dairy and tillage farm. The business was acquired by Bandon Co-Op a decade ago and now operates as a key division of the co-op under the prudent stewardship of Andy’s daughter Eilís who has been with the business since college.
All of the winners are a credit to West Cork farming.
After another hugely successful year, we look forward to 2024 and the 10th anniversary of the awards.