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Planning a fresh rural enterprise?

The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority Teagasc, is one of the unsung heroes of Irish business. Without fanfare, Ireland’s artisan foods and agri-businesses have helped to put this country on the map. We look at the challenge of making farms viable, lucrative rural businesses with Paul McCarthy, Rural Business Specialist with Teagasc.

Rural entrepreneurs, just like entrepreneurs the world over, have both drive and ambition. They strive constantly to diversify their businesses to beat the recession and prosper. In many cases they are guided by Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, an expert in the field of rural business, which provides advice and encouragement on how to give their new ventures the best possible chance of succeeding.

According to Paul McCarthy, Rural Business Specialist with Teagasc, there are programmes available which are designed to motivate rural entrepreneurs to take an inventive approach to a new business and help them to turn their original ideas into reality. “In this time of economic uncertainty many people are being forced to look at the resources they have around them and to come up with new ways of making money and building towards the future,” says McCarthy.

McCarthy has organised events and written extensively on rural business and rural entrepreneurship. He is a regular contributor on national radio and print media. “We give mentoring, guidance and feedback to farmers who want to develop rural enterprises. There are so many new models of business innovation. Everything from wooden farm toys to mountain bike trails to cheese makers,” says McCarthy. Teagasc has its ear to the ground when it comes to rural business – through competitions, its interaction with farmers and mentoring, it monitors trends in rural business and identifies gaps in skill. ‘We need to focus on people looking at their own farm as more sustainable,” says McCarthy while acknowledging that it’s not easy to start a small enterprise. “You can fall very quickly at the first hurdle, but it can be done. Lots of people out there have succeeded. There are a lot of hurdles but it’s not impossible. Oftentimes, people can turn the problems into opportunities.” In a recessionary climate, McCarthy says farmers are looking at new sources of income and thinking outside the box at ways of generating revenue from the farm. At the same time consumers are more and more seeking real value for their money and looking to know the provenance of what they’re buying. “They’re looking for no waste. You have to be energy conscious. People think about food miles, recyclables, grow your own. Traceability and healthy eating are big too. “Meanwhile, marketing and presentation are a big part of making rural entrepreneurship a success. You have to get out there and promote your goods and services. Talk to other farmers and indeed other businesspeople about what’s worked for them and what’s not. There’s plenty of help available, so use it.” He advises anyone thinking of setting up a rural business to make time for it, and to do their market research.

* Agri and agri services
o Fertiliser spreading
o Turf Grass
o Hedge Cutting
o Stone wall building
o Animal Husbandry Services
o Herd registration/cross compliance services
o Producing rare breeds
o Market gardening
* Manufacturing
o Woodwork – gates, kitchens, windows
o Metal/Ironwork
o Concrete moulds
o Toy farm sets
* Food
o Artisan cheese
o Free-range eggs
o Party/family event catering service
o Ice cream/sorbets
o Yogurt
o Speciality breads and cakes
o Organic salad oils
o Soups
o Tray packed meats
o Farm shop
* Energy & Environment
o Wood chipping
o Timber and turf distribution
o Wood pellets
o Eco heating
* Tourism
o Heritage farms
o Farm tours
o Self catering
o Guesthouse B&B
o Mill visitor centre
o Genealogy
o Boat marina
* Tourism websites
o Services
o Landscaping
o Computer training
o Rural taxi
o Handmade wedding stationery
o Boarding kennels
o Care of the elderly
o Childcare
o Re-enamelling old cookers
* Equine
o Livery
o B&B for horses
o Arenas, cross country courses