Farm diversification boosting rural economy

THE diversification of farm businesses is boosting the rural economy according to Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill.

Addressing the audience at the ninth Diversification Challenge awards evening at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Minister O’Neill said, “Small business creation and development is a key driver of our local economy and has a particular role to play in the development of a sustainable rural economy. The current economic climate has brought renewed attention to entrepreneurship as a means of creating jobs or supplementing income and it is important that we harness the potential it offers.

“Diversification allows farming families to continue with the family tradition of farming whilst at the same time provides an opportunity to increase income.

“The Diversification Challenge Programme plays a key role in helping people along this path.

Since its establishment, it has assisted over 1,800 farm family members to plan the development of their proposed new businesses.

Diversification Challenge programmes are specifically designed to meet the needs of members of farm families who are planning and establishing new rural enterprises. CAFRE and DARD staff deliver the programmes at a range of venues across the north of Ireland and these training programmes provide participants with a unique opportunity to acquire new skills and apply them to develop their businesses.”

Praising the efforts of successful participants, the minister continued, “Successful completion of this programme requires great commitment and is a key step for any farmer or farm family member thinking of starting up a new rural enterprise. For some, this could involve starting up activities and businesses related to farming whilst for others it could mean embarking upon something entirely different which makes use of their resources and skills.”