FARMER FOCUS: Time is right for a NI farming hub

I have just returned from what was an amazing fact-finding trip to Uganda with the Fields of Life Charity. This fantastic organisation manages to spend over 90% of the funds raised from people building schools and drilling fresh water wells.

To see the benefits that a simple thing like clean water can bring to these struggling communities is a humbling experience.

Back at home, crops have been progressing slowly due to the cold late spring. It’s not unlike 2011, when harvest yields were above average. This will not be the case this year due to there being too many bare patches, but slow growth gives cereal plants time to fill extra grain sites, so things are looking up.

Our forage maize sown under plastic is progressing well. Contractors Trevor and Nick did a superb job with their big, well-maintained gear, but unfortunately the local herd of wild deer decided that the dead straight rows of film were ideal for running in and messed up one field. Venison is on the menu when the season opens.

The Balmoral Show has moved to a new permanent site at the former Maze prison. The choice of venue, with hard, dry car parking for 14,000 vehicles was a great decision. The Northern Ireland agrifood industry, in all its facets, has the opportunity to develop a centre of excellence in an ideal location.

DARD is proposing to move their headquarters and this site is the obvious location. The UFU, pedigree breed societies, research institutes and any other body involved in our largest industry should buy in to the concept of a modern dynamic, one-stop shop which will be the hub for driving food production.

This is the ideal time as the Northern Ireland Food Strategy Board has just published its list of recommendations and a timetable for their implementation.

Mistake of the Month: Told Rory Best’s dad (fellow arable farmer John) that I would see his son playing for the Lions in Australia. Wrong. Lions coach Warren Gatland picked Dylan Hartley instead. How “jammy” can you get!

Allan Chambers farms 270ha of medium stony loam at Tullynaskeagh Farm, Tullynaskeagh,Co Down, with his nephew growing cereals and maize

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