LAST Sunday’s West Cork Farming Awards organised by The Southern Star and the Celtic Ross Hotel was a celebration of everything that’s good about farming in the region.
It was the perfect opportunity to recognise and acknowledge the hard work of the farming community in West Cork and this informal family event saw up to 200 people attending the awards lunch.
Neil Grant, general manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel, welcomed those gathered for the awards and said that, as a hotel, they are always looking at ways to bring in local farm suppliers. He also pointed out that the menu featured local produce, which he acknowledged for its great quality.
Managing director of The Southern Star, Sean Mahon said it was great to see such a crowd gathered at the Celtic Ross and said that it’s ‘a great indicator of how these awards have caught on.’
‘We’re here to celebrate farming, which is an incredible, important industry and I want to thank all the nominees and those that nominated you and whether you win today or not, you should be proud of your achievement and contribution to West Cork life and the farming industry,’ said Sean, who thanked all the sponsors and everybody involved in the organisation of the awards.
Con Downing, editor of The Southern Star, paid a personal tribute to his fellow judges – Billy Kelleher, regional manager of Teagasc Cork West; JJ Walsh, sales and marketing manager, Carbery Group, and John Buckley, 2013 Macra Young Farmer of the Year.
He said: ‘Our readers sent us in a great cross-section of nominees – more than doubling the number of nominations made the first year – and then the adjudicators narrowed them down to a shortlist of three in each of the five categories.’
‘The standard this year was so high that it was difficult to pick the winners. But all the nominees are winners in their own right,’ said Con. He added that none of them would leave empty-handed, as each would get a trophy and certificate, while the winners of each of the categories received a trophy, certificate and a prize to the value of €500 from the respective category sponsors.
The first award of the afternoon to be given out was for the Young Farmer of the Year Award, which was sponsored by Drimoleague Concrete Works.
The nominees for this award were Michael Daly, Reenascreena; Michael McCarthy, Knocks, Ballineen, and Peadar O’Driscoll, Church Cross, Skibbereen. The winner was Michael Daly and Eugene Murnane from Drimoleague Concrete Works presented Michael with a trophy and a voucher.
For the Innovation and Vision Award, which was sponsored by Scally’s SuperValu, Clonakilty, the nominees were the Allshire family from Caherbeg, Rosscarbery; James and David Bryan from Bio Plant & Agri Ltd, Kilbrittain, and Stephen O’Mahony from Agri Audits, Ballineen. The winner in this category was the Allshire Family and Margaret O’Rourke of Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty presented them with their award.
The Dairy Farmer of the Year was sponsored by AIB and the nominees were Kevin Collins from Gurrane, Timoleague; Michael Crowley, Bauravilla, Skibbereen, and Jerry Duggan, Derrylahan, Dunmanway. The award went to Michael Crowley and Maeve Buckley, manager of the Skibbereen branch of AIB, presented him with his trophy.
The next award given out was for the Drystock Farmer of the Year, which was sponsored by Eurogene AI Services. The nominees were Con Cadogan, Caheragh, John Daly Ballineen and Kitty & Tommy Moyles, Ardfield. This award went to John Daly from Ballineen and Tom Baker, business development manager with Eurogene AI Services, presented him with his trophy.
The final award of the afternoon was for the Hall of Fame, which was sponsored by Denis McSweeney & Son Ltd, Enniskeane. The nominees were Donal Harte, Drimoleague, Mairéad Keohane, Lislevane and Con Scully, Ardfield who won the award and was presented with his trophy by Paudie McSweeney from Denis McSweeney & Son Ltd.
Special guest, Darragh McCullough, presenter of RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground and deputy editor of the Farming Independent, gave an entertaining and informative speech at the end of the meal and proved a popular figure as he mingled with the guests.
The Celtic Ross Hotel was thanked for a fine meal and the staff members – many of whom has worked until the small hours of the previous morning at a wedding reception attended by 300 people – were praised by general manager Neil Grant. To further add to the occasion, there were ‘goodie bags’ for those attending the awards ceremony.