A Cork dairy farmer who has revolutionised his farm in just five short years has been crowned Ireland's top farmer.
Peter Hynes was named the Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Farmer of the Year in a hotly contested competition that saw innovative farmers from across the country bid for the coveted title and a slice of the €19,000 prize fund.
"It gives you confidence. It shows if you knuckle down, work hard and build a good team around you, you can be successful," said Mr Hynes, who is from a non-traditional farming background, as is his wife Paula.
After graduating from Clonakilty College just five years ago, Mr Hynes - also named Rising Star - has been involved in setting up a discussion group to develop the ambitions of younger farmers, along with sponsoring an annual award. He is also a passionate believer in the power of grass measuring and new technology to boost profits.
"I think there is a huge place in farming for women," he said, with his wife Paula also dedicated to driving their farm on. He said that great friends, expertise from Teagasc and the hard work of his wife had helped to build-up the award-winning farm.
There was strong competition in the Excellence in Farm Safety category, with judges deciding to deliver a joint award to Jack Murphy from Clonmel, Co Tipperary and Michael Callinan, from Inagh, Co Clare.
The organics sector once again shone this year as Eamonn Holohan's family-run operation outside Rathdowney in Co Laois saw him named Beef Farmer of the Year.
He revealed that after building up their suckler herd from 90 to 140 cows in recent years, they now plan to calve 150 this year.
The winner of the sheep category, Joe Scahill, is bucking the trend in hill farming with his expanding 160ha enterprise at Westport, Co Mayo on the foothills of Croagh Patrick. "Hill farming is like everything else: if you have a passion for it, you'll stay at it," said Mr Scahill, who began farming when he was just 13.
The Dairy Farm of the Year award went to Tom and Alice O'Sullivan, who have a high EBI spring calving dairy herd and are milking 85 cows at Crookstown, Co Cork.
Tim, Jackie and Mark Ronaldson from Co Kildare shone in the tillage sector, with son Mark (25) saying that they felt there was a lot of negativity in that area. However, they concentrated on keeping an eye on what is out there in terms of technology and methods to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A special lifetime achievement award was presented to journalist Martin Ryan.
Zurich director of sales Lorcan Harding said they were proud to continue to help celebrate excellence in farming and recognise farmers contribution.
Louise Hogan, editor of the Farming Independent, said there was great "positivity" shown by all the farmers.