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Teagasc’s CRAFT REACH Project part of Government’s Action Plan for Jobs

Teagasc’s CRAFT REACH project is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017 for the West Region launched by the Taoiseach and Minister Bruton on Monday November 16th 2015. The Plan, which covers counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, identifies the agri-food, tourism, medical technology, ICT and pharmaceuticals as key for employment growth.

The CRAFT REACH project, which is funded by the EU Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) programme, started in mid-2015 and will run to mid-2018. Teagasc is the Irish partner in this project which seeks to support the viability of artisan producers by helping them diversify their businesses into the cultural tourism market by using the Économusée model developed in Canada over 25 years ago. An Économusée is an artisan producer who opens their premises to visitors by providing an interpretive and educational experience. Working with six other European partners and one from Canada the project supports an international network of 68 producers through knowledge exchange, business development, capability building, and on-line sales.

Dr. Kevin Heanue of Teagasc’s Rural Economy and Development Programme who is leading the project in Ireland said that “I am delighted that the Action Plan for Jobs recognises the potential contribution that this innovative model of enterprise support can make. Since the Économusée model was brought to Northern Europe, 38 new artisan producers have become Économusées in the process creating 75 new jobs usually in remote rural areas”.

The idea behind the CRAFT REACH project is both simple and sophisticated. It is simple in that the Économusées form a tourism- based network, or trail, which by bringing people to the premises to participated in a distinctive authentic, interpretive and educational experience, assists the businesses expand sales and sustain or create employment. It is sophisticated in that it helps artisan producers develop the capabilities and infrastructure to tap into the burgeoning number of tourists who wish to ‘experience’ local culture and buy authentic local produce. Both processes enable the artisan producer to diversify their core business into the tourism market in response to market signals and, therefore, improve its viability.

The CRAFT REACH project is currently recruiting Irish artisan producers to join the network. “The core of the Économusée concept is a six step model that artisan producers implement to structure the visitor experience to their premises so as to provide an authentic learning experience, and training in this six step model is given as part of the project” said project coordinator Bridin McIntyre, Teagasc’s Rural Economy and Development Programme.