Barclay Bell from Rathfriland, Co. Down, has been awarded the John Finnan Oat Quality Award by White’s Oats, for his ecological farming practices and commitment to producing sustainable, high quality porridge oats.

Bell, who is an eighth generation farmer and farms on a mixed farm with his son Jonathan, is one of 35 local growers growing oats for Co. Armagh based White’s Oats.

He is a member of the Ulster Farmer’s Union (UFU) as well as active in numerous environmental schemes.

Always keen to explore ways to make his farm more sustainable, Bell uses renewable energy serviced through a small wind turbine for electricity and has a number of environmental habitats to encourage pollinators, wildlife and birdlife.

Bell said, “I am delighted to have won this award, the collaboration between White’s and its growers over the past number of years and the knowledge transfer, has been hugely beneficial in ensuring we produce the highest quality oat product that we can.

"Farming sustainably and supporting biodiversity is central to our agricultural practices on the farm, and the importance of a complete supply chain cannot be underestimated."

As a local company, White’s is committed to supporting local farmers, sourcing its conventionally grown oats within a 60 mile radius of the mill.

It has developed strong partnerships with 35 local growers as part of its on-going commitment to delivering a more sustainable business model.

Working in partnership with White’s growers, Sean Kane, White’s agri-supply chain coordinator commented:

''White’s Oats Grower of the Year is someone who not only has a passion and commitment to growing high-quality oats, but is dedicated to protecting the environment and wildlife.

"By keeping up to date with the latest research, we have worked collaboratively with Barclay to deliver technical support providing the end consumer with sustainable and high-quality porridge oats and oat cereal products.''

Judging for the award was based around five key areas including; mill quality, which measures hullability, kernel content and bushel weight; on-farm compliance, sustainable agriculture, food and farming against high environmental standards; and technical development around commitment to oat research and trials.

The John Finnan award was launched in 2019 in memory of Dr. John Finnan, senior crop researcher at Teagasc Crop Research Centre.