Rural Development Programme
Growing farm profit through diversification and off-farm activity
In recent years many rural dwellers have established new enterprises to improve their income, provide employment for family and utilise available resources. Such development will be even more important in the future. Teagasc provides training and advisory services to promote and sustain a broad range of enterprise development in rural areas. A team of specialist advisers provide start-up training for those establishing new enterprises and a continued training and advisory service for those who are up and running.
The Options Programme is specifically designed to assist farm families in looking at all options for growing farm profit and other possibilities for the future. Teagasc advisers are trained to discuss all aspects of the farm business, succession, inheritance and lifestyle issues to ensure the long term viability of the household. Following discussions, a Way Forward Action Plan is agreed which sets out the pathways to be followed. The plan sets out how the land asset can be used to the maximum plus other options such as diversifying into another on-farm enterprise, small business development or off-farm opportunities. It may also include referral contacts to other Teagasc advisers with special skills or other agencies. Some 14,000 farm families have availed of guidance from this Programme which is free.
The main alternative enterprises covered under the Rural Development Advisory Programme are:
Grant assistance for the development of an organic farm is now available separately under two schemes – REPS 4 and the new Organic Scheme. This new Scheme gives farmers, who do not wish to join REPS, the option of availing of support payments. Grant assistance towards the purchase of equipment is also available. Teagasc provides support through its Organic Advisory Programme.
The sport horse industry is worth an estimated €450 million annually to the economy. Approximately 55% of the national sport horse herd is classified as breeding and/or young stock. The number of sport horses in Ireland is growing, with an estimated national population of 110,000 animals as at December 2005. This makes Ireland the most densely sport horse populated country in Europe. Sport horses include riding horses and ponies of all breeds and types intended for use in recreational and competitive activities other than racing. The sport horse industry includes all individuals, organisations and businesses involved with the breeding, production and use of sport horses. Grant aid is currently available through local Leader companies for certain types of equestrian developments which meet their eligibility requirements. Teagasc provides training and advice in equine husbandry and skills.
Opportunities for increased profit
There are approximately 250 deer farmers and about 300 dairy goat farmers in the country. Demand for farmed venison and dairy goat products are at an all-time high. The Deer Demonstration Unit at Teagasc Kildalton Agricultural College serves as a resource to Teagasc advisers and the wider deer industry in generating on-going practical information.
Dairy goat farming is now well established in Ireland. Products can be found in many shops and demand continues to increase. With relatively low capital investment, a goat enterprise may complement an existing enterprise, especially on farms where facilities for sheep already exist.
There are upwards of 30 million tourist visits in Ireland annually. Many come to participate in activity-based holidays. For example, about one million come to participate in walking holiday activities while about 300,000 foreign visitors come to Ireland to experience equine-related activities. This presents opportunities to land owners. Teagasc provides training in the possibilities available in rural tourism including expected profit margins. Grant aid for specific rural tourism projects is available through local Leader companies.
The production of specialty food in Ireland is worth over €500 million from a base of 320 producers with an estimated combined employment level of 3,000 people. The production of artisan food offers an on-farm business opportunity to many farmers. Teagasc is currently developing an Artisan Food Training Programme, designed to meet the needs of enterprise-orientated people who are interested in setting up a small food business. Such businesses may be grant-aided by local Leader companies.
Commercial and free range poultry
Over 1,000 people make their livelihood from poultry production in intensive, free range or organic systems. Of these, approximately 300 are free range egg producers. Opportunities are very much market driven and many free range producers are grouped together and supply local markets. There are several enterprises including eggs, chickens, turkeys and geese. Teagasc provides support in the form of one-to-one advice and training courses.
On-farm business development
The establishment of a small business requires skills in business planning and development. Teagasc has published a training manual –‘Your Twelve Step Guide to starting a Business in Rural Ireland’ which will form the basis for training in business start-up. Courses will be offered at various Teagasc offices around the country. Additional information about starting your own business is also available in our online Guide to starting your own business.
The programme is provided through a network of advisers located throughout Ireland. There are 19 rural development advisers supported by specialists and the Teagasc research team.
Costs of the programme
The programme is 100% funded from National Exchequer sources under the National Development Plan.
The programme is ongoing under the National Development Plan (NDP 2007 – 2013).
For further information on the Rural Development Programme, please visit the Rural Development site.
To find the media contact for Rural Development, please visit our media contacts section.