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Food entrepreneurs take top spots at Women and Agriculture Awards

FOOD entrepreneurs from Cork have swept the boards at the first annual FBD Women and Agriculture Awards.

Ann Moore of Glencash Farm in Ballyspillane, Valerie Kingston of Glenilen Farm, and Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe have walked away with the three top prizes — on–farm innovation; agri-business Innovation and the lifetime achievement award.

Conor Gouldson of sponsors FBD Trust said: "Women are central to the success of Irish agriculture. As we look to our farms to help revive our economy, it is vital that we recognise the people who are innovating at farm and agri-business level.

"These innovative women are providing a spark for our food sector and helping to maintain Ireland’s global reputation as the food island. I look forward to our winners competing successfully in the European awards."

Ann Moore runs Glencash Farm in Ballyspillane, Co Cork. In 1998, Ann and her husband David were milking 28 cows. Ann has since built up the herd to almost 200 cows on 300 adjusted acres.

Her award for on–farm innovation is based on her determination to adopt new technology to reduce costs and improve output. She aims to produce a high-quality milk and has brought farmers from New Zealand to advise her on grass measurement and other techniques.

Valerie Kingston of Glenilen Farm delivers value-added products from her medium-sized family farm near Drimoleague. Valerie qualified as a food scientist and began her working life with a dairy co–op in Cork.

She then chose to change direction by volunteering in Burkino Faso, where she helped local women establish a cheese-making project.

On her return to Ireland, she turned that experience to her family farm produce. Starting from her kitchen table, to a local farmers market, to taking space in a local supermarket, Glenilen farm is now a substantial export business, employing 28 and with a turnover of €2.2m.

Having built a new state of the art food development facility, Glenilen ingredients were also used in the state dinner for Queen Elizabeth in Dublin Castle.

Ann and Valerie will represent Ireland at the COPA European awards. The prize winner will be announced in August with a presentation in Brussels in October.

Lifetime Achievement award winner Myrtle Allen is a pioneer of Irish food and food tourism. She opened Ballymaloe house to visitors in 1964 and has championed Ireland at trade fairs in Europe and America.