Farmer and businessman Thomas Gilpin was given a standing ovation as he collected the Lifetime Achievement Award at a top farming competition last week. Mr Gilpin, founder of Loughgall-based Gilfresh Produce, grew up on a farm in Portadown and started his career in 1965 with a 4.5 acre field, growing vegetables for supply to small shops.
Gilfresh Produce now has a turnover of £18 million and manages the growing of more than 2,500 acres of root vegetables, salad crops and brassica vegetables. It has a team of 130 people and 40 Gilfresh growers.
At the Farming Life Danske Bank Awards, held last Thursday at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Belfast, Mr Gilpin took the top accolade for his commitment to the arable industry. The company also took the Agri-Food Business of the Year prize.
The audience rose to its feet as Mr Gilpin was presented with the award by Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen. First Minister Arlene Foster and Angus Wilson, of Wilson Potatoes, filmed a glowing tribute to Mr Gilpin, summing up his contribution to the industry.
The audience at the awards heard how it was Mr Gilpin’s wealth of experience and innovative ideas which enabled him to grow the business from the small operation to the significant local employer it is today. MLA William Irwin said, “I have known Thomas for many years and he is a very hard working and dedicated individual who has devoted a lot of time and effort to his business and built it into a very successful enterprise. “In my own constituency his company Gilfresh Produce is a very valued local employer and his entrepreneurial skills have contributed to economic stability in the area. “It is also another great achievement that the company was awarded Agri-food Business of the Year at the ceremony. This of course is testimony to the effort put in by Thomas and all his hard working team.”
Thomas Gilpin said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be recognised as an outstanding Northern Ireland business and also to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Both are great recognition of the hard work of all at Gilfresh and the growers who supply superb products.”