Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council sets out a pathway for the future of its local agriculture and farming sector
With a firm eye to the future, there was a fresh feeling of hope, optimism and opportunity in the air during the launch of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council’s new Agriculture Strategy.
Held in Dollingstown’s stunning Gracehall, the recent launch event laid out plans within ‘Northern Ireland’s first council-led agriculture strategy’ to representatives from the borough’s diverse farming and business community as well as to key industry leaders, academics and stakeholders, many of whom played a key role in shaping and informing the strategy’s development.
Proposing 10 recommendations, the strategy not only demonstrates council’s commitment to the sector but also articulates the role they must play in supporting the industry’s economic growth and long-term viability.
“This is a testimony to the ambition, aspiration and commitment of our council to demonstrate innovation and be responsive to the emerging issues in our business and farming community,” Roger Wilson, chief executive of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, says.
“Our borough is well-known and characterised by its fertile lands, rolling hills, orchards, the lough and rich farming heritage, so it comes as no surprise that we’re home to over 3,400 farm enterprises leading in horticulture, cattle, sheep and cereal farming, as well as bringing around £376m into the local economy and employing over 7,000 local people.
“These facts are not lost on council, as we understand the significant contribution local agribusinesses make to our borough’s community life and economic fortunes. In recognition of this strength, our Agriculture Strategy sets out a vision that sharpens our focus on the necessary steps needed to support and drive further growth within this vitally important industry.
“Focused on the benefits of collaboration, council is committed to delivering the Agriculture Strategy’s recommendations that will drive inclusive growth and the green agenda within the sector by working alongside key stakeholders, complementing and promoting the industry’s offering, plus addressing its needs to enable it to reach its true potential.”
With well-established initiatives and facilities already embedded across the borough, ABC Council launched its Food Heartland brand back in 2015, which saw council work alongside the industry to champion local food and drink producers, and support their ongoing growth and development. What’s more, council’s Tannaghmore Rare Breeds Animal Farm, the only Rare Breeds Survival Trust Conservation Farm Park in Ireland, celebrates farming and living heritage as well as supports council’s ecological sustainability and conservation programmes.
Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, alderman Glenn Barr says: “With agriculture and agri-food sectors featuring prominently on the borough’s agenda, we are committed to driving the industry forward delivering on the recently launched Agriculture Strategy’s recommendations as well as continuing to build upon our existing support measures, utilise our strong network base and bid for new funding.
“This strategy represents a real impetus for change and a chance for the whole sector, from field to fork, to come together on the one path to take advantage of all future opportunities and share in economic growth of the borough.”
Providing an overview of the strategy, the launch event also featured keynote speeches from former National Farmers’ Union President Sir Peter Kendall and BBC Countryfile’s Adam Henson, as well as a panel discussion on the future of agriculture, and insights from local students currently taking part in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge.
Commissioned by ABC Council, the Agriculture Strategy was carried out by industry specialists Birnie Consultancy Ltd in line with the Independent Strategic Review of the Northern Ireland Agri-Food Sector, the Green Growth Strategy and the Mid South West (MSW) Regional Economic Strategy among others.
ABC Council Agriculture Strategy
- Expand and evolve Food Heartland.
- Develop a method of communicating regularly and clearly with all agriculture and agribusinesses in the borough.
- Develop a plan to facilitate skills development in agriculture and agribusinesses.
- Appoint ‘agriculture champions’ for the borough.
- Develop an ‘agriculture centre’ for advice, training, demonstrations, and research.
- Facilitate structural upgrading.
- ABC Rural Strategy.
- Further studies in sectors related to the agriculture industry.
- Agri-food development.
- Promote the health and wellbeing of farmers and rural dwellers.