A young Donegal grower is making a name for himself, earning a bucketful of top honours from agricultural shows across the county and farther afield.
Ten-year-old Dan Bonner of Falmore, Maghery, took three first-place finishes at shows this year – including one in the U-18 All-Ireland in Tullamore – as well as second place in two other shows. The top awards are based on points scored in individual sections, so that means young Dan scooped dozens of prizes at each show.
Dan’s father, Marty, is a part-time farmer, with sheep, cows and veg. Dan has been growing since he was about 4 years old, he said, and started entering shows with his father about four years ago. He enjoys travelling with his father to the different shows and meeting the farmers there. And he enjoys the care that goes into growing prize-winning veg.
“I like everything about it,” Dan said.
This year, Dan won first place at agricultural shows in Meenacross, Clonmany, Ardara and the U-18 All-Ireland in Tullamore, where he won with a display of three types of veg he had grown. He also took second place in shows in Carndonagh and Manorhamilton. At the All-Ireland in Tullamore, he and his father took first place in six out of the seven sections for potatoes. The shows were all held within a period from late July to nearly mid-August.
“We had five shows in eight days,” Marty said. “It was hectic.”
Dan’s favorite veg to grow is potatoes, and he also grows onions, carrots, parsnips and cauliflower. The shows he and his father enter are the culmination of a long process that begins with planting and takes months of careful tending.
When selecting veg for competition, Dan said he looks for pieces that are without blemish and well-shaped and coloured. Growers must submit several samples per category, and they all must be roughly the same size. The whole family becomes involved then, with Dan’s mother, Geraldine, and sister, Emma, 8, joining them around the table to select the veg they will enter into the show.
When there’s a competition coming up, “you’re tripping over veg in the hallway,” Geraldine said, laughing. After the samples have been selected, all the veg must be washed and dressed for the competition. Presentation is very important. So Dan and his father usually begin that part of the process early in the morning on the day before the show, sometimes not finishing until midnight that night.
There are some months before the next growing season but Dan is already looking forward to next year’s competitions.
“Oh he has to keep his titles,” Geraldine said.