Ireland offers grants up to €200K to farmers for agri-tourism diversification

 Wednesday, May 24, 2023 


Farmers interested in diversifying into agri-tourism can apply for incentives of up to €200,000 under the LEADER initiative in Ireland. The funding programme assists private businesses and community groups in improving the quality of economic activity in rural regions.

Farmers are currently investigating several diversification alternatives, including energy crops, forestry, renewables, and rural tourism.

According to Barry Caslin, Teagasc Energy and Rural Development specialist, travellers are looking for more authentic and natural experiences than city breaks and hotels.

Diversifying into tourism, according to Caslin, is not sector specific, but each farm wishing to diversify should consider the rural advantage their local location possesses.

“People are more interested in short stays of up to three nights and see different counties, compared to a week-long holiday in the same place,” he said.

However, counties along the Wild Atlantic Way are proving to be the most successful in terms of geography. Tourism is growing in Cork, Donegal, and Clare counties, according to Caslin.

The general returns from the business are determined by the county in which the business is located. Many factors come into play here, including the general rent rate. Log cabins, for example, can range from €400 to €1000 per week depending on location.

Caslin stressed that each county has something to offer, and it all relies on the sort of tourism that is appropriate for the area. He recommended that the major issues are the area’s expertise and assistance, which farmers should examine before beginning.

The Glen Keen property is on the Wild Atlantic Way. One of the larger farms to diversify into agri-tourism is a 1,400-acre sheep farm with a commonage footprint of over 5,500 acres.

The farm is run by a family and combines education, heritage, and environmental tourism.

Glen Keen Farm won a 75% LEADER grant of €150,000 for the development of a tourism facility with a capacity of 250 people, a tearoom, a craft store, and a photography exhibition.

Glamping, camping, self-catering, and log cabins are the most popular accommodation alternatives. All of this can be done at a cheap cost and with a potentially lucrative return, according to the Teagasc specialist.

With Ireland’s housing scarcity, farmers have recognised an opportunity to offer housing choices for people, whether it’s turning old barns into self-catering cottages or creating shepherd’s huts.

According to Caslin, women are leading the way through rural tourism. He said that they seem to “thrive on the challenge” of rural tourism and they have “brought in new skills and contacts that has proved very helpful across the country”.

Teagasc Rural Development Department, in collaboration with the Irish Self Catering Federation of Ireland (ISCF), will organise an agri-tourism conference on Monday (May 22).

Caslin stated that the event’s goal is to hear from farmers who have previously diversified about the problems they had along the way in making their project a success, as well as if they would do anything differently.

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