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Ireland’s Second Food Économusée Opens at St Tola Goat Cheese Farm, Co. Clare!

Ireland’s second food Économusée was opened today, Thursday, 17 April at St. Tola Goat Cheese Farm, Inagh, Co. Clare by David McCann, Executive Chef at Dromoland Castle. An Économusée is an artisan business that opens its doors to the public to provide a learning and interpretive experience for visitors.

The concept was developed in Québec, Canada, over twenty years ago where rural artisan businesses that are supported to develop a tourism aspect to their operations are called Économusée. These Économusées form a tourism-based network, or trail, which assists the businesses expand sales, sustain employment and offer an enhanced visitor experience.

St Tola Goat Cheese is made by Inagh Farmhouse Cheese Ltd and is a member of CÁIS (The Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association). St Tola Goat Cheese has been made in Inagh just south of the Burren in Co Clare since the late 1970s. It is a fine quality goats’ milk cheese, handmade in small batches, and its unique flavour and character reflects the pure clean environment of Co Clare where it is produced. It is one of Ireland’s most sought after artisan products.

An Économusée is an important heritage tourism attraction and contributes to the sustainability of rural areas through the creation of direct employment and by providing an attraction that disperses tourists to rural regions. Speaking at the opening, Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith, Director of Inagh Farmhouse Cheese Ltd said that ‘the establishment of Co Clare’s first Économusée at our farm is a welcome step, as it will encourage visitors to go beyond the Cliffs of Moher and explore other activities in Clare and along the Wild Atlantic Way and Burren Food Trail. St Tola Économusée is well placed to attract the “culturally curious” tourist, who represents a significant market segment in Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland’s marketing strategy. It will also give tourists another tangible reason to stop and spend money in the area’.

Ireland’s involvement with the Économusée concept arose from an invitation to Teagasc to become a partner in an EU Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) funded-project to bring the successful Économusée concept and business model to selected rural areas in Europe. Involving partners in 7 countries, the project called CRAFT INTERNATIONAL has already established a network of 22 Économusées through the NPP area with a target of 93 Économusées internationally by the end of 2014. St Tola Goat Cheese is only the third of its kind in Ireland, with the other two located at the Celtic Roots Studio in Ballinahown, Athlone, Co. Westmeath and the Connemara Smokehouse in Aillebrack, Ballyconneely, Co. Galway. There are also 3 Économusées in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Kevin Heanue who is leading the project for Teagasc said: ‘Earlier this week, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, launched the report of Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) which outlined the need to support rural enterprise. “The Économusée concept is an innovative model of rural enterprise support which assists artisan producers to diversify their businesses into the heritage tourism market by providing them with a 6 step template to help them structure the visitor experience. There are opportunities for other quality producers to join this heritage tourism network in the future’.