MacIvor cider. Credit Paul Canning

Mac Ivors Cider Company and MacNeice Fruit Ltd are celebrating winning prestigious National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards. The Canned Bramley Apples received their first ever award while the traditional cider received the accolade for the second year running.

The annual awards [1] celebrate the very best produce from the National Trust’s 1,500 tenant farmers and estates across Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

Products not only have to excel in the obligatory taste test, but entrants also have to pass a checklist of environmental standards to guarantee the quality and origin of ingredients alongside high standards of production. The winners are decided by a judging panel consisting of 10 food and drink experts.

Greg MacNeice and his father. Credit Paul Canning

Greg MacNeice’s family have farmed in Ardress, Co Armagh for over 150 years. He now manages Mac Ivors Cider Co and MacNeice Fruit Ltd, and is earning many fans with the award-winning craft ciders and apple products coming to market.

Talking about the ciders, Greg explains: ‘We use tried and tested production methods to get as close as possible to the taste of a freshly picked apple. No preservatives or additives, just freshly pressed apples and yeast. Then we let nature takes its course.’

Sustainability is at the heart of the Greg’s ethos:

‘Not using insecticides is very beneficial to our native bumblebee population,’ he says. ‘Which in turn is good news for our orchard. We’re just giving nature a helping hand.’

Greg MacNeice and his father in his orchard. Credit Paul Canning

The MacNeice family traditions are in evidence throughout the orchard. From using predominantly traditional farming methods to protecting the orchard’s oldest residents.

‘Among our hundred acres we have a couple of dozen trees that are over 125 years old, so we do everything possible to preserve them,’ he says.

This year 25 producers in total were recognised for 45 outstanding food, drink and countryside products ranging from beef to honey and flour to turkey and mushrooms [2].

Rob Macklin, Head of Food and Farming at the National Trust, and chair of the judges said: ‘The awards are unique because of their focus on three key areas – taste, production methods and environmental standards.

‘As Europe’s largest conservation charity it is really key for us that our producers reflect our whole reason for existing – and customers can rely on the fact that every product having the awards ‘stamp’ not only tastes great, but is produced in a way that cares for the land which not only works alongside nature, but is also farmed sustainably for future generations to enjoy.

‘The feature that best characterises the winning producers is their attention to detail. Factors such as quality of diet, livestock breeding, crop varieties and methods used in growing and manufacture underpin the presentation and performance of the final products

‘Every year the producers raise the bar and many of the products receiving the prestigious marque really are the ‘best of the best.’

For more information about the awards and to find out more about this year’s award winning products and producers, visitwww.nationaltrust.org.uk/finefarmproduceawards

Picking the apples for the MacIvors cider. Credit Paul Canning

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