Arable & horticulture update

Friday, 26 July, 2019

Commodity watch by policy officer, Patricia Erwin 

The Ulster Farmers’ Union supports both the arable and horticulture sectors and in 2018-2019, provided secretarial assistance to the umbrella organisation Horticulture Forum NI, of which the UFU are a founder member, in promoting the horticulture industry at the 2019 Balmoral Show.

The Royal Ulster Agriculture Society in partnership with Horticulture Forum NI, Mighty Spud and Jilly Dougan, showcased the best of local produce at the show. The exhibit received very welcomed financial support from DAERA through the NI Regional Food Programme, while horticulture exhibits, materials and activities were provided by the following Horticulture Forum NI members and industry businesses. They were all supported by much valued input from CAFRE students and numerous industry members over the duration of the show: 

  • Northway Mushrooms
  • NI Soft Fruit Growers Association
  • Jilly Dougan Co. Armagh ‘edible gardener’ and author of Sow Grow Munch and children’s CCEA endorsed education programme
  • NI Flower and Foliage Association
  • NI Stakeholder Potato Promotion (Mighty Spud) Group
  • NI Fruit Growers Association / UFU Top Fruit Committee
  • Armagh Council / Richhill Apple Fayre
  • UFU Vegetable Committee
  • Veg Power / Food Foundation / Cook School
  • Association of Landscape Contractors Ireland
  • RUAS – horticulture competition 

The benefits of working in partnerships, co-operating and taking pride, when coupled with fun and education, were all found in the Healthy Horticulture Zone at Balmoral Show 2019.  The hard work, education profiling and horticulture production cycles started many weeks before the event. This included much-needed work by Jilly Dougan, planting and growing vegetable and potato plants for display, the sourcing of assorted veg plant modules for display, kids planting activities and sale, provided by Trevor Gabbie and apple juice for the kids to taste was provided by Noel McAllister. 

The Horticulture Forum exhibitors planned for mushroom, fresh flowers, strawberries, apple and potato produce to be ready for show time.  Food NI provided the mobile cookery theatre for demonstrating and tasting purposes. 

Hamilton Loney, Horticulture Forum NI vice-chair and Adrian Magowan chairman of the UFU vegetable committee engaged with everyone and encouraged those in the industry to participate. Much fun was had with the production of a special video promoting local Northern Ireland produce, illustrating the health benefits of a balanced healthy diet, and nurturing and educating children about where their food comes from.    

Ulster Academy centre Stewart Moore, local children Harriet and Alfie Reid with Charlotte and William Brown, were our stars within the Healthy Horticulture Zone. They also featured at the official launch of Peas Please in Northern Ireland when the video was shared in the Food Pavilion. Guests added our own Northern Ireland level of pride and passion to the Veg Power campaign for promoting the need for an increased consumption of fruit and vegetables in all our diets whether young or old. 

PeasPlease and Veg Power campaign

Whilst fun and education were key for all involved, on a more serious note pledges were officially made from four Northern Ireland organisations giving a commitment to the PeasPlease Campaign.  Anna Taylor CEO of the Food Foundation welcomed this commitment at the official launch.  Representatives from the Food Foundation, launching both PeasPlease and Veg Power campaign, travelled from England and helped take the lead with the kid’s activities. 

On the Thursday hundreds of school kids had a very special audience with children’s author and food ambassador Amanda Grant, co-founder of Cook School, a nationwide social enterprise to teach children to cook. Local food demonstrator Evelyn McBurney cooked up flavoursome veg dishes and engaged the kids in the preparation of local fresh fruit and vegetables delivered daily by local producers and Gilfresh.  

Local demonstrators shared techniques for arranging fresh flowers, how best to optimise the potential for patio tubs and hanging baskets and useful tips on how to prune apple trees were shared with many visitors who welcomed the opportunity to ask questions, seek guidance and learn.   The now establish charity sale on the last day of all plants, flowers and produce has become the perfect way to end the horticulture industry exhibit giving something back to society.  Full details of donations collected and charities who benefited will follow.

Over the four days of the Balmoral Show in excess of 15,000 people visited the exhibit, 1016 children completed the Healthy Horticulture Trail and received packets of seed donated by Westland Horticulture and a similar number participated in the numerous children’s activities on the various stands, including the “Veg Power” cookery theatre. The exhibit was included as one of the “stops” for primary school parties visiting the Show.

During a visit to the Stand, UFU President Ivor Ferguson, congratulated forum members on the initiative and thanked approximately 40 individuals and organisations who had worked so well together to make it such a resounding success. 

Importance of fruit and veg production

The Ulster Farmers' Union recognise the importance of fruit and vegetable production in Northern Ireland through its contribution to the local economy, the environment and the health of consumers, as pledged by UFU deputy president David Brown.

The UFU is committed to supporting growers' build resilient, sustainable and profitable businesses through our policy influence in order to increase fruit and vegetable production and subsequently consumption in NI. The UFU pledges to create a vibrant image of fruit and vegetables through social media, local press and grower consumer interactions events.

Horticulture Forum ensure representation

The Horticulture Forum NI pledges to ensure that fruit and vegetable growers are represented when lobbing government on horticulture issues that affect their business.  The forum pledges to continue to promote local fruit and vegetables to children and adults as long as they continue to exhibit at Balmoral Show. The Forum will also use it's Facebook Page to post and endorse vegetable promotions. Finally the Forum will also ensure that incoming office bearers are aware and committed to delivering the pledge.

Horticulture is a very diverse and vibrant industry which offers tremendous opportunities across a wide and varied spectrum. These include the increasingly important amenity and recreational sectors, as well as the vegetable and plant growing sectors so well illustrated at the Balmoral exhibit.

The Horticulture Forum NI members had the privilege to attend the 2019 Horticulture awards ceremony at CAFRE Greenmount Antrim and share in the celebration of the success of the 2019 horticulture students as they head out on a career in this exciting industry. 

Pictured: UFU and RUAS representatives welcome our local N Ireland horticulture video stars into the Healthy Horticulture Marquee at RUAS 2019.  The Children profiled with Stewart Moore Ulster Rugby Academy in a video promoting local vegetables and the importance of a healthy balanced diet. 

(L-R) UFU Deputy President David Brown, horticulture stars Alfie and Harriet Reid, William and Charlotte Brown with Denise Kelso Chairman Balmoral Show Horticulture Committee