THE presence of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed at last Sunday’s 3rd annual West Cork Farming Awards, run by The Southern Star and the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery was further acknowledgement of the area’s prominent role in driving quality standards in Irish agriculture and of the people behind it.
He praised all involved in what is a most dangerous occupation and urged farmers to exercise even greater caution in their workplaces in the wake of two farm fatalities in the previous week, urging neighbours to co-operate to help make one another’s farms safer places.
There were fifteen nominees shortlisted for the five awards, which produced worthy winners, but all of the runners-up are also outstanding in their particular fields and deserving of recognition.
The awards nominees came from across the wider West Cork area – from Innishannon at the eastern end to Castletownbere out west and from Kilnamartyra in the north down to the coast. There was also the age range of them, from young farmers to Hall of Fame nominees, with huge competition in the former category, which bodes well for the future of agriculture in the area.
While all of the 15 shortlisted nominees were winners in their own right, we must salute the five category winners, John Sexton, Gurteen Dairy Farm, Bandon (Young Farmer of the Year); Stuart Kingston, Upper Forest Farm, Farnanes (Sustainability & Diversification); Robert & Shirley Shannon, Droumgarriffe, Ballinascarthy (Dairy Farmers of the Year); Gerard Dineen, Kilnamartyra, Macroom (Drystock Farmer of the Year) and John Sexton, Courtmacsherry (Hall of Fame).
Some of those recognised are hoping for further recognition nationally next week with last year’s West Cork Dairy Farmer of the Year winners, Michael & Marguerite Crowley of Baruavilla, Skibbereen, and this year’s winners, Robert & Shirley Shannon of Droumgarriffe, Ballinascarthy, in contention for the 2017 National Dairy Council and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, along with Norman Perrott of Grange, Timoleague. That West Cork accounts for three of the 14 farm families represented in the national finals speaks volumes for the quality of our dairy farming enterprises.
Whatever about awards, it is good to see that such hard-working farmers are being rewarded financially also with milk prices continuing to increase after the serious 18-month slump that came in the wake of the abolition of EU milk quotas in April 2015 which exacerbated the worldwide over-supply situation at the time. Price volatility is a reality for farmers, as those involved in beef and tillage have been finding out to their cost in recent times, however West Cork farmers always seem to display a resilience to face down problems like this and keep going.
Through thick and thin, agriculture makes a vital contribution to local rural economies and its importance cannot be overstated. Therefore, the endeavour of farmers deserves to be recognised by initiatives such as the West Cork Farming Awards, which honour the both the farmers and their families whose collective input is integral to their enterprises.