MORE than 150 people enjoyed a family-orientated afternoon that celebrated the joys of rural life and living on Sunday afternoon last at the inaugural West Cork Farming Awards presentation ceremony, run by The Southern Star and the Celtic Ross Hotel, in Rosscarbery.
As guests arrived, they were greeted in glorious sunshine by a display of vintage tractors and cars outside the hotel ballroom, courtesy of Leap and District Vintage Club, while inside they had set up a scaled model diecast and diorama show, comprising model farm layouts, plant, truck and machinery.
The truly feelgood event, which catered for young and old like, proved a huge success as guests enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch, interspersed with awards presentations to the winners of the four categories, all of whom proved popular choices.
Each received a trophy and a prize to the value of €500.
The awards categories were Young Farmer, Innovation and Vision, International and Hall of Fame. The judges had narrowed each one down to a shortlist of three and none of those chosen went home empty-handed.
Master of ceremonies for the 2015 West Cork Farming Awards was Con Downing, editor of The Southern Star, who also served as chairman of the judging panel. The other members were Billy Kelleher, Cork West regional manager of Teagasc; JJ Walsh, sales and marketing manager of the Carbery Group, and John Buckley of Colomane, Bantry, the 2013 Young Farmer of the Year.
Guests were welcomed to the Sunday lunchtime awards ceremony by Helen Wycherley, director of the Celtic Ross Hotel, on her own behalf and that of her father, Gerry, who was unavoidably absent but who had taken a keen interest in the staging of these awards. She thanked everybody involved, especially Southern Star managing director Sean Mahon and editor Con Downing for their input into organising the awards.
Mr Mahon welcomed all to the packed room, made up of awards nominees, their families and friends, sponsors, agri business and industry representatives and the awards partners, saying: ‘I think that this, combined with the fantastic response we got to the West Cork Farming Awards initiative when we first launched it earlier this year, suggests we’re really on to something special and I’m confident that this is only the beginning for these awards and that this event will go on to get bigger and become an annual feature of the West Cork farming calendar.’
MC Con Downing said that all of the shortlisted nominees were already winners in their own right and a category award was presented between each of the four courses of the splendid lunch laid on by the Celtic Ross Hotel, under the supervision of genial general manager Neil Grant.
The winner of the Young Farmer Award was Aidan McCarthy of Airhill, Schull, whose herd was wiped out by BSE soon after he took up farming, but he moved from beef to dairy and now milks 146 cows. He was presented with his award by category sponsor Eugene Murnane of Drimoleague Concrete Works, who also presented trophies to runners-up Colin Griffin of Ballincourcey, Timoleague, and Adam Shorten of Murragh, Enniskeane.
The Innovation and Vision Award winner was Dan Connolly of Connolly Dairy Services, Timoleague, for the constantly up-to-date service and advice the company provides and he received his prize from Margaret O’Rourke of category sponsors Scally’s SuperValu, Clonakilty. The runners-up here were the Allshire Family of Caherbeg, Rosscarbery, and Ivan Rumley of Rumley’s Open Farm, Waterfall.
The International Award went to Dan MacSweeney, CEO of the Carbery Group, Ballineen, in recognition of the local and global expansion of the business. It was presented by Stephen Evans Freke of category sponsor Castle Freke Distillery, who also made presentations to Sebana MacCarthy, wife of Florence of Drimoleague who runs a massive dairy enterprise in Saudi Arabia, and to Nuffield Scholar Máire McCarthy of Ballyhandle, Innishannon, the runners-up.
Mr Evans Freke took the opportunity to say a few words about the importance of international trade, especially via the internet, and advocated the setting up of a collective to market West Cork products and services internationally as there are huge opportunities to be exploited.
The Hall of Fame Award went to Peggy O’Brien of Lislevane, who courageously took on the challenge of running a large farm while rearing a young family of seven after her husband was killed in a farm accident in 1979. She was unable to be present as she was in hospital, but her son, John O’Brien, accepted the award on her behalf from Richard Kingston of category sponsors Allied Irish Bank, who also presented trophies to runners-up William Hurley of Laravoulta, Enniskeane – accepted in his absence by his son Richard – and Leo Meade of Ballinascarthy.
All in all, a most pleasant occasion which seemed to have been hugely enjoyed by young and old alike.