Westmeath dairy farmer, Noel Martin, has won one of the premier awards in the Connacht Gold Milk Quality Awards. Noel and his wife Mary, who farm at Fardrum, Athlone, took the award for the highest standards in animal health across the 950 dairy farms supplying Connacht Gold in 2009.
They were presented with the prestigious prize by guest of honour, Professor Patrick Wall, at an awards ceremony in Ballaghadereen last week.
Congratulating the Martins on their outstanding achievement, Connacht Gold chief executive, Aaron Forde said they epitomise the substantial improvements made by the co-op’s suppliers in milk quality and composition in recent years.
“Since we introduced the new milk price system and installed new laboratories, the number of suppliers receiving bonuses for top quality has continued to increase. This has happened in spite of two very difficult years with both weather and price. I want to commend farmers on their magnificent response,” said Aaron Forde.
Professor Patrick Wall, an acknowledged world expert on food quality and safety, said Noel and Mary Martin are “special people who should take enormous pride in their achievement”.
He said that with the increasing amount of diet-related disease and obesity in our population it is important the agri-food sector highlights the nutritional benefits of its products.
“Noel and Mary Martin are in the vanguard of highlighting milk as a healthy, wholesome, and nutritious product. Farmers might not think it but they are in the health business and it is important to highlight the role milk plays in the health of both children and adults. If Coca Cola were branding milk we would be positioned very differently in the market place.
“Animals in Ireland are outside grazing for much of the year in idyllic surroundings and cared for by superior stockmen who are their owners. This is in stark contrast to many of the intensive farms in operation elsewhere which are run like factory operations often staffed by unskilled low paid workers. Our system addresses many of the consumer concerns regarding animal welfare. However, it is another feature of our production system that is undersold,” said Professor Wall.