UFU urges County Londonderry farmers to ‘open gates’

William Thompson, Agri-Manager for Bank of Ireland UK with Barclay Bell from the Open Farm Weekend initiative.inbm17-14
William Thompson, Agri-Manager for Bank of Ireland UK with Barclay Bell from the Open Farm Weekend initiative.inbm17-14

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has called on farmers in County Londonderry to get involved in its award-winning Open Farm Weekend initiative which takes place on the 14th and 15th June this year.

Now in its third successful year, the initiative will see dozens of real, working farms open their gates to the public to give them a slice of life on the farm and to educate them on how their food is produced.

Last year’s event saw almost ten thousand members of the public visit one of the 19 participating farms which included only one farm which opened fully to the public in Castlerock. This year the Ulster Farmers’ Union is asking local farmers to help tell the story of their food to local people.

Barclay Bell, Chair of the Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend steering group said, “Open Farm Weekend was a huge success last year and together with our host farmers we’re helping to create greater public awareness of the importance of farming and the contribution farmers make to the community and the local economy. But we need farmers from all over County Londonderry to help us tell that story and educate people on where their food comes from.”

The UFU has also announced a major new sponsorship of the initiative by Bank of Ireland UK. The bank has been involved in Open Farm Weekend as a co-funder since year one but have now increased their support to become the event’s Principal Sponsor. The new sponsorship will secure the future of the initiative into 2016 and will see the event renamed as the “Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend.”

William Thompson, Agri-Manager for Bank of Ireland UK said, “Having been involved in Open Farm Weekend from the very beginning, it has been encouraging to see how the initiative has grown and developed. Our local branches in Coleraine, Draperstown, Magherafelt and Maghera will be getting behind the event and making sure all of our customers know about their local participating farms.”

Participating farmers can look forward to information and advice about how to run their event as well as site visits for health and safety. The organisers will also advise on activity plans and provide support and advice on promotion of each farmer’s individual event. The initiative will once again be supported by an integrated marketing campaign to raise awareness of the initiative but the organisers are keen to have all farmers who want to take part signed up before 30th April.

William Thompson commented, “Bank of Ireland UK is a strong supporter of the local agri-sector and we see our sponsorship of Open Farm Weekend as a key part of that strategy. Our support for the event will not only help us to reach out to a large local audience but will also empower farmers across Northern Ireland to tell their own story to the public and hopefully create greater understanding of the sector.”

A similar project, Open Farm Sunday has been running in Great Britain for eight years and has proved an enormous success, with tens of thousands of people visiting their local farms last summer.

The Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend is a project by Ulster Farmers’ Union and is also sponsored by NFU Mutual and supported by the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster. Any farms wishing to take part in this year’s event can visit www.openfarmweekend.com or call Lindsay Curran on 028 90249449 for more information.