Hard work and enterprise are recognised at awards banquet
Carlow tillage farmer scoops €7,500 in prizes for his cereal enterprise
Published 13/05/2014 | 07:00
Carlow tillage farmer Kevin Nolan was revealed as the inaugural winner of the Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year competition at ceremony in Dublin on Friday night.
The 35 year-old has built up a cereal enterprise of more than 1,000ac of cereals on mostly leased land in and around the parish of Bennekerry, where his lives with his wife, Una, and family just outside Carlow town.
He beat off stiff competition from entrants from all over the country to scoop €7,500 in cash and prizes.
More than 250 finalists and industry representatives attended the awards gala, which also saw a lifetime achievement award being presented to Kerry native Denis Brosnan for his formative role in the establishment of Ireland's largest food company, Kerry Group.
He told the packed banquet that he was "humbled and honoured" to be receiving the award 10 years on from his retirement from the €8bn company that he helped create.
"I loved working with farmers, and it was a wonderful industry to be part of, where everybody is salt of the earth," he said.
He also paid tribute to the other eight award winners on the night.
"Kerry's success is built on all its effort being put behind what they are good at. It's obvious that the eight category winners here tonight know what they are good at and are focused on pursuing that."
Other winners on the night included east Meath dairy farmer David Moore. The Stamullen man has increased his herd EBI and milk sold per cow by 30pc over the past four years. His average of 669kg of milk solids per cow is the highest in the whole of Glanbia.
David and Paula Johnson from Redcross, Co Wicklow, won the beef award. The couple impressed the judges with their Teagasc profit monitor figures which showed that they sold 410kg per livestock unit last year and returned a gross margin of more than €900/ha in 2013.
Well known sheep farming duo Gordon and Yvonne Johnston from Tyrellspass, Co Westmeath, emerged as winners from the sheep category. With a stocking rate of 9.6 ewes per hectare, they sold 1.53 lambs per ewe in 2013.
Finnegan brothers Joe and Paul from near Navan in Co Meath won the alternative category with their impressive 500ac potato growing enterprise. The brothers already supply Dunnes Stores and plan to launch a chipping enterprise over the coming months.
With potato crops spread across counties from Limerick, Wexford, Carlow and Meath, the brothers impressed the judges with the professionalism of their business that allows them to harvest more than 700t of produce in just one day.
However, it wasn't just large-scale businesses that received recognition on the night.
Working on just over 17ac of land outside Templemore in Tipperary, Rory Maher was the youngest winner on the night, claiming the top prize for Equestrian Business of the Year. The 24 years old is a pinhooker, buying and selling flat-bred thoroughbred foals as yearlings, in many cases for close to 10 times the value he paid for them. Mr Maher's most successful yearling during his short career was a colt by Selkirk Colt that sold at auction in 2012 for €130,000.
Ronan Byrne from Athenry, Co Galway, was another farmer that proved that big isn't always better. He is the fifth generation of his family to turn a good living out of a 35ac farm, and his pasture-based poultry business secured the Rising Star prize.
In just seven years, Mr Bryne has built up a thriving meat and egg enterprise, The Friendly Farmer, that provides employment for up to 14 locals at various periods during the year.
Contractors also received recognition, with father and son team Jim and Thomas Moloney from Cahir, Co Tipperary, emerging as the winner of the Contractor of the Year award.
Kevin Nolan won the Tillage Farmer of the Year section for his meticulous operation that averaged 12t/ha for winter barley in 2013. The Carlow man also impressed judges with his use of technology, from GPS to Facebook, to drive expansion.
The eight category winners shared a prize fund of €20,000.
Commenting on the event, the Irish Independent Farming editor Declan O'Brien said he was over-whelmed by the level of interest that the competition generated within the farming community.
Other key sponsors at the awards included the ICMSA, Teagasc, Land Rover and the Agricultural Consultants Association.
SEE INDEPENDENT.IE TO LISTEN TO KEVIN NOLAN AND DENIS BROSNAN ON THE NIGHT