Tuesday 22 January 2019

“It’s given me a whole new impetus – Just go for it…”

Tom Dunne, Grand Prix winner 2016
Tom Dunne, Grand Prix winner 2016

Are you one of Ireland’s 2017 Farmers of the Year?

The very best in Irish farming is being recognised across all sectors and awarded once again this year in Ireland’s premier awards programme for agriculture, the Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards.

“It’s given me a whole new impetus. I’m raising the bar for myself”, says current Farmer of the Year Tom Dunne, who describes his win as giving him and his family “such a feel-good factor”. “I’ve learned as much in the last 12 months since I won the title, as I have in the past 5 years”

“It’s a good business decision to enter – a great way of benchmarking”, adds Chair of the Judging Panel, farmer, journalist and broadcaster John Fagan, encouraging farmers from all over the country to enter. The competition is quick, easy and free to enter.

There are 6 categories including Sheep Farmer of the Year; Beef Farmer of the Year; Dairy Farmer of the Year and Tillage Farmer of the Year.

Up and coming innovators leading the way in Irish farming are invited to showcase their work and enter the Rising Star category. There is also a Lifetime Achievement Award to honour those who have made exceptional contributions to the industry.

Farm safety has never been more critical in today’s agricultural world and this will be acknowledged with an award for Excellence in Farm Safety.

The Grand Prix is then awarded to the overall Farmer of the Year for 2017.

“A big boost for organic farming”

Organic beef farmer, Tom Dunne from Durrow, Co. Laois described himself as “stunned” when having won his category, he then went on to win the overall Grand Prix last year, particularly as the competition attracted thousands of entries. “It was a big boost for organic farming”. “I wasn’t expecting to win. My family and my mother Mary got a great kick out of it”

Tom (53) and his wife Gemma, have two daughters Dervla and Bronagh and their beef operation produces year-round supplies to the Good Herdsmen organic beef processors, based in Cahir, Co. Tipperary.

Tom has been farming organically for the past 8 years, now concentrating on finishing beef and he is a founder member of the Irish Organic Beef Producers. He transitioned to organic beef after originally starting with sheep and sucklers. He produces his own silage straw, plus he grows his own wheat and pea combination cereals for feed.

“Organic - You need to work hard at it”

“I love every minute of it but there’s a great challenge in it – you need to work hard at it to make organic farming work. While I was conscious of the organic grants and schemes available, there’s now so much more emphasis on minding the environment – I wanted to do my own part for the environment. While I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone to go organic – I would certainly recommend it, but it’s a decision you have to make yourself”.

“There were two other organic farmers in category wins and it was great that organic farming was a winner,” explains Tom. “I think it highlighted the fact there is a viable living to be made from organic farming in Ireland. Sometimes people can frown on organic, look down on it or see it in a different light – but I think the win put it out there with the rest of them.”

“Just go for it”

Encouraging other farmers to enter, he says: “If you feel you have a product and it’s good enough to be out there with the best – why not? – just go for it.”

“Some farmers don’t like the limelight – they just want to keep their heads down and keep working. I didn’t have a problem entering last year as I've gained hugely from the number of other farmers I’ve met since I won – transferring ideas just through chat and learning.”

“I’m still being congratulated by people on the street and at the co-op and mart. I’ve learned as much in the last 12 months since I won as I did in the past 5 years. Following the win, I’ve met farmers now, from up and down the country that I would never have met. Sometimes farmers even now still ring me out of the blue for advice on organic”.

“I’m continuing to raise the bar for myself”

“The Farmer of the Year competition has given me a great additional insight in to the background of what I have been doing and where I am going. It’s given me a whole new impetus and positivity about farming now. I’m continuing to raise the bar for myself”

Encouraging farmers to enter, Chair of the Farmer of the Year Awards, John Fagan says: “I wouldn’t hesitate for one second to enter. Why not? It’s a great way of benchmarking your business against other farmers.”

“If you win, you get a great prize. If you don’t you are guaranteed to still learn something. It can only benefit you”, says journalist and broadcaster John, whose farm on the shores of Derravaragh Lake at Gartlandstown, near Mullingar, Co. Westmeath hosted RTÉ’s ‘Big Week on the Farm’ last year.

“We learn and become better farmers”

“This competition acknowledges the guys that are doing well. We all learn from them and become better farmers as a result. The standard is always very high every year – from young farmers to lifetime farmers”.

“This competition is very important and it is a great one for all farmers to get involved in. It is wonderful to have Zurich on board as sponsors to acknowledge the great work that farmers are putting in to their farms across the country.”

“We are very lucky to have this competition. I make mistakes on my own farm and I wouldn’t realise I have made those mistakes if I didn’t go and look at other farmers work”, says John.

Farmers – “the most modest people on the planet!”

“Farmers are the most modest people on the planet! Sometimes they are afraid to win these things and think that people will think they have a swelled head. It is not about that. Everybody should enter. There’s nothing to lose and it’s good to analyse your own farm and look at what you are doing. It’s a good business decision to enter if you want to run a successful business and it’s a chance to get your place in shape and be judged by experts. It could be the best exercise you’ll ever get involved with.”

“It’s not about notoriety – it’s about taking your business seriously”

The Zurich Farm Insurance Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards are all about recognising and rewarding the very best in Irish Farming. The Awards are now in their fourth year and will take place at Dublin’s Ballsbridge Hotel.

There are six categories available to enter as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award and of course the overall Farmer of the Year 2017. Category winners will share in a prize fund valued at €19,000 as well as invaluable profile in the Farming Independent and of course a magnificent trophy to mark their victory.

It’s free to enter and farmers can nominate themselves or be nominated by any third party (Teagasc Advisor, friend, family member, fellow farmer etc). Enter now here.

Zurich Insurance plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland

Sponsored by: Farmer of the Year

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