FarmWeek celebrates 60 years 'on the farmers' side'

FarmWeek celebrates its 60th anniversary with a special edition available in the shops now. Picture: Hugh Russell.
Gary McDonald Business Editor

FARMWEEK, the north's only weekly newspaper devoted entirely to news, views and featured articles connected to the farming scene, is celebrating its 60th birthday.

When its first issue hit the streets on January 3 1961, Northern Ireland had around 46,000 farm businesses with an average farm size of just 37 acres.

In the following six decades there has been a huge fall in the number of farms and farming families supported on the land.

But the paper has consistently and unerringly charted the massive progress and change across the rural scene, reporting all aspects of the farming revolution and changing methods of production.

Initially the paper was owned by the Craigavon-headquartered Morton Newspaper Group. But in June 2005 Edinburgh-based Johnston Press took over FarmWeek as part of its £155m acquisition of Score Press, the group whose portfolio included Morton Newspapers.

Because it also owned the News Letter, which has its own weekly farming supplement, Johnston Press was forced to dispose of FarmWeek, with competition concerns being raised with the Office of Fair Trading in London.

Under the terms of the disposal agreement, the assets of FarmWeek, which were valued at £3m, were acquired by the Irish News in July 2008 and the paper relocated from Portadown to Donegall Street in Belfast.

For almost two thirds of its existence, FarmWeek was edited by the late Hal Crowe.

One of the youngest editors to be appointed in Northern Ireland journalism, he remained at the helm through major transitions in the newspaper and farming industries, leading the FarmWeek team from the late 1960s through to his retirement in 2007. He died in August 2019.

Mr Crowe was succeeded into the editor's chair by Robert Irwin, who had worked alongside him for many years and who has been with the paper since 1984. He continues to oversee FarmWeek's comprehensive output.

Robert said: "So much has changed in agriculture since that momentous day when FarmWeek made its debut.

"Farming methods have continuously evolved, and so many leading and well known figures connected with all sectors of the industry have come and gone.

"Over the last 60 years the farming community has faced and overcome many great challenges, and FarmWeek has played a central role in all of this. The paper has been, and remains, ‘on the farmers' side'."

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