Ben, Kitty and Charlotte Colchester. Picture by Shane O'Neill, Coalesce.
Innovators and trailblazers in Irish agriculture have been recognised by the RDS through their Sustainable Agriculture Awards - with two Kilkenny winners!
The RDS Sustainable Agriculture Awards were announced online in what is a first in the Society’s 290-year history. Usually presented in front of a live audience in the RDS Concert Hall as part of the RDS Spring Awards, the judging and presenting of the 2020 Awards were delayed due to the impact of Covid-19.
Husband and wife, Ben and Charlotte Colchester of Drumeen farm, Urlingford, were awarded the Sustainable Farming Award. They have been passionate about organic farming since the 1970s and paved the way for many other organic food producers that have followed. Over many years they have also shown how biodiversity can be incorporated into high efficiency farming and in recent years produced their own award-winning Second Nature Oils.
The runner-up in the 2020 RDS Sustainable Rural Enterprise Award is Castlecomer Discovery Park.
Castlecomer Discovery Park is a social community enterprise operating on a not for profit basis.
Set in the former grounds of the Wandesforde Estate, Castlecomer Discovery Park comprises 80 acres of stunning natural woodland and lakes and began as a community project to rejuvenate the town of Castlecomer following the closure of the coal mines in 1969.
In 2019 the park attracted 144,000 visitors. The park has been a catalyst for the regeneration of Castlecomer and has created 26 full time equivalent jobs and provided training and career opportunities for those most at risk of long-term unemployment in the area.
According to Mark Gibson, Teagasc, and member of the RDS Sustainable Agriculture Awards judging panel: “it was an honour and a pleasure to see the quality and diversity of the award applicants through the judging process. I would like to congratulate all the winners and thank them for welcoming us over recent weeks to see their work first-hand. It is important that we learn from these examples so that others can be inspired by their success.
The purpose of the RDS Sustainable Agriculture Awards is to recognise Irish farmers, agri-entrepreneurs and innovators, and celebrate their work in meeting the sustainability challenge. Our 2020 award winners are excellent examples of how it is possible to balance economic, environmental and social sustainability.”
“Agri-food employs over 160,000 people and has exports worth over €14 billion. It has always been vital for Ireland and can maintain that vitality through the type of innovation we are acknowledging today” says Geraldine Ruane, Chief Executive of the RDS. “The high standard of today’s winners and runners-up demonstrates that the move towards greater sustainability, both environmentally and economically, is well underway. Greater innovation and sustainability is key for the continued prosperity of rural Ireland and we all need to play our part in contributing to this ongoing transition.”
The winners in each category received €2,000 prize money, an RDS Silver Medal and a certificate of merit. Runners up received €1,000 and a certificate of merit.
Doirin Graham, Clare Local Development Company, and member of the RDS Sustainable Agriculture Awards judging panel added: “These have been extraordinary times and I would like to commend my colleagues on the judging panel for their dedication over the past year in reviewing the applications and judging these awards. The process was delayed due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, so we are delighted to now be able to recognise the excellent applicants and celebrate the winners.”
She continued: “Thank you again to all who applied for the awards. Without our applicants these awards would not be possible so I would like to call on all those involved in the sustainable development of the sector to consider applying for the 2021 awards which are now open for entries.”
The RDS has encouraged innovation and best practice in Irish agriculture since its foundation in 1731. The RDS Sustainable Agriculture Awards are a continuation of this tradition with a renewed focus on sustainability as Ireland addresses climate change.
The Awards have been expanded in 2021 to include new categories for agri start-ups and social impact. The closing date for 2021 entries is July 30 and details of the awards and how to apply are available via: www.rds.ie/rds-foundation/agriculture
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