Innovative farmers shine at awards


Innovative farmers were at the fore when the annual Euro-toque food awards were presented today.

Four of the five awards went to groups of farmers who had added value to their produce. Euro-toques Ireland is the Irish branch of the European Community of Chefs and Cooks.

The Apple Farm, near Cahir, Co Tipperary, received an award for its range of apple and fruit varieties, juices and fruit produce.

Con Traas's family have been growing fruit, primarily apples, at The Apple Farm in Moorstown since the 1960s.

Woodside Farm in Leamlara, Co Cork, received an award for its free-range pork and pork products. Martin and Noreen Conroy breed and rear pure traditional Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot pigs at their farm near Midleton.

Drumeen Farm in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny was recognised for its Happy Heart organic rapeseed oil. Kitty Colchester began producing the oil on her parent's organic farm earlier this year.

Another award went to Solaris Botanicals in Galway, for its organic whole leaf speciality and herbal teas. Medical herbalists Jorg Muller and Karin Wieland produce a wide range of whole leaf organic speciality and herbal teas

A special award was presented to farmers' co-operative group Connemara Hill Lamb Ltd for its achievement in registering Connemara Hill Lamb as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) under the EU food quality scheme. This means that the name 'Connemara Hill Lamb' can only be used to describe lamb born and reared in the Connemara Hills from black-faced horned ewes, feeding on a unique mixture of grasses, herbs and their mother's milk.

Áine Ní Chiarragáin, co-op director said the registration had made "a huge difference" in terms of product recognition and sales.

Speaking at the awards, Euro-toques commissioner general Feargal O'Donnell urged the Government to provide a safety net for small food producers to allow them to survive the recession. He said regulatory requirements and compliance costs were making many businesses uncompetitive and deterring new food enterprises.

"In many cases producers are being asked to invest in facilities that they will never recoup the cost of," he said. "Many of these people wish to remain small and just to supply locally. We believe a different approach is needed."

Minister for Food Trevor Sargent told the awards ceremony that he would "continue to espouse the cause of the local producer, and a fair distribution of rewards in the food chain whilst all the time, placing the protection of our environment and our long term food supply at the heart of all policy decisions".