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How to get grants of up to €200,000 to add value on your farm

Funding and free courses are available to farmers looking to diversify, whether that is in to food production or agri-tourism.

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Grants of up to €30,000 to fund market research into potential projects are also available from LEADER.

Grants of up to €30,000 to fund market research into potential projects are also available from LEADER.

Each of the country's 31 Local Enterprise Offices offer free business advice sessions

Each of the country's 31 Local Enterprise Offices offer free business advice sessions

If you're thinking of diversifying into food production, such as cheesemaking, LEADER can provide funding for the building and equipment

If you're thinking of diversifying into food production, such as cheesemaking, LEADER can provide funding for the building and equipment

Noreen and James Cunningham of Donegal Farmhouse Cheese.

Noreen and James Cunningham of Donegal Farmhouse Cheese.

James Cunningham with Millie, Jimmy and his Limousin cross suckler cattle.

James Cunningham with Millie, Jimmy and his Limousin cross suckler cattle.

Donegal Cheesemaker James Cunningham, Kilcar, Co. Donegal with his Charlaois Limousin cross suckler cattle. Photo Clive Wasson

Donegal Cheesemaker James Cunningham, Kilcar, Co. Donegal with his Charlaois Limousin cross suckler cattle. Photo Clive Wasson

Robert Cullen from Cullen Nurseries with his son Joseph. Photo by Roger Jones

Robert Cullen from Cullen Nurseries with his son Joseph. Photo by Roger Jones

Robert and his son Joseph checking out the stock.

Robert and his son Joseph checking out the stock.

Caitriona and Robert Cullen. Photo Roger Jones.

Caitriona and Robert Cullen. Photo Roger Jones.

Rosemary and James O Shea on their dairy farm at Tullahay Co Tipperary. Photo by John Kelly

Rosemary and James O Shea on their dairy farm at Tullahay Co Tipperary. Photo by John Kelly

Rosemary O Shea with her farm fresh Soft Cheese and Award winning Mango and Passion Fruit Whey Drink and Natural Fruit Puree Photo john d kelly

Rosemary O Shea with her farm fresh Soft Cheese and Award winning Mango and Passion Fruit Whey Drink and Natural Fruit Puree Photo john d kelly

Tullahay Farm whey drinks

Tullahay Farm whey drinks

“Non-food related farm diversification projects are also covered, as is agri-tourism," says Sara Bourke.

“Non-food related farm diversification projects are also covered, as is agri-tourism," says Sara Bourke.

Funding for a range of different farm diversification projects is available from LEADER

Funding for a range of different farm diversification projects is available from LEADER

Donegal Cheesemakers Noreen and James Cunningham. Photo Clive Wasson

Donegal Cheesemakers Noreen and James Cunningham. Photo Clive Wasson

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Grants of up to €30,000 to fund market research into potential projects are also available from LEADER.

Grants of up to €200,000 and free ‘start your own business’ courses are available for farmers who want to add value to their farm.

The grants from LEADER can be used to fund farm diversification, while it also has grants of up to €30,000 to fund market research into potential projects.

According to Sara Bourke, project development officer at South Tipperary Development CLG, the grants are “aimed at those who want to add value” to their farm.

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“Non-food related farm diversification projects are also covered, as is agri-tourism," says Sara Bourke.

“Non-food related farm diversification projects are also covered, as is agri-tourism," says Sara Bourke.

“Non-food related farm diversification projects are also covered, as is agri-tourism," says Sara Bourke.

“Funding for capital projects can be provided by LEADER,” she says. “This includes tangible items such as bricks and mortar, equipment and machinery. A maximum of €200,000 is available per project.

“For instance, if you’re diversifying your farm to include a cheesemaking facility, LEADER can offer funding for the building of the food production facility and for the equipment required to make the cheese.

“It’s the same when diversifying into any type of food production whether it’s yoghurt, ice-cream or meat products.

“Non-food related farm diversification projects are also covered, as is agri-tourism.”

Farmers can also avail of up to €30,000 for feasibility studies.

“If someone comes to us with an idea and wants to explore whether or not there might be a market for it, we can fund a feasibility study into the prospective market and estimate what their financial projections might be,” Sara says.

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If you're thinking of diversifying into food production, such as cheesemaking, LEADER can provide funding for the building and equipment

If you're thinking of diversifying into food production, such as cheesemaking, LEADER can provide funding for the building and equipment

If you're thinking of diversifying into food production, such as cheesemaking, LEADER can provide funding for the building and equipment

According to Sara, there are four key steps to consider when looking to access LEADER funding:

Fill out an Expression of Interest form through your Local Development Company (LDC).

“Through this form, you outline what your idea is and explain what you need to achieve it. This form can be found on your LDC’s website. This can then lead to the formal LEADER funding application process.”

Work with your Local Development Officer they can guide you through the application process for LEADER funding.

Don’t underestimate the time and effort the application process requires. “It’s quite detailed and supporting documents will be required. When applying for funding for large capital projects, a business plan will be required. “

■ Be mindful of regulations. “Because it’s public money, accessing it is quite regulated. You will be required to get a number of quotes based on what you want to do.”

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Local Enterprise Offices

LEOs can also help farmers who want to add value by providing mentorship, training and vouchers for online trading, according to Kevin Curran, head of enterprise at LEO Cork North & West.

“The first thing anyone should do before they come to their LEO is sit down with a pen and paper and write down a few things what your idea is, who your target market is and what you need to make it happen.

“If you do that, you’ll have the basics of a business plan.”

Kevin says each of the 31 LEOs across the country offer free business advice sessions which can help point you in the right direction.

“These sessions offer people the chance to talk through their ideas and helps them find ways to connect with their market,” he says.

“It’s an advisory service that many people find very helpful.

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Funding for a range of different farm diversification projects is available from LEADER

Funding for a range of different farm diversification projects is available from LEADER

Funding for a range of different farm diversification projects is available from LEADER

“The next step might be taking one of our ‘Start Your Own Business’ courses. These are short, focused programmes that cover the basics of everything you might need to know when starting your own business. They cover things like marketing, taxation and accountancy.

“When you complete the course you’ll have the first cut of a more formal business plan, which you can then use to talk to finance providers.”

These courses are done online and over seven or eight half-day sessions.

“Mentorship is another great, ongoing support offered by LEOs,” he says.

“Depending on the type of business you’re hoping to set up, you might be assigned a mentor who has practical experience of the field. It’s like having a big brother or sister to ask advice from.

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Robert Cullen from Cullen Nurseries with his son Joseph. Photo by Roger Jones

Robert Cullen from Cullen Nurseries with his son Joseph. Photo by Roger Jones

Robert Cullen from Cullen Nurseries with his son Joseph. Photo by Roger Jones

“We’d always encourage people to stay in touch with those they meet through our courses. Having someone else in the same situation as you can be really helpful, even if you’re working in different fields. Human experience is invaluable.”

Kevin says last year saw a record number of Trading Online Vouchers (TVOs) being administered through the country’s LEOs.

“A TVO is a small grant given to micro-businesses to help get them trading online,” he explains. “It’s worth up to €2,500 and can be a great way of digitalising your small business.

“It’s another great support offered by LEOs. Usually, we’d process 40-45 TVOS a year in our LEO but last year we processed 420.

“The pandemic saw so many local businesses close their physical doors, so they needed to find another way of trading and that’s where TVOs came in. The demand went through the roof”

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Donegal Cheesemakers Noreen and James Cunningham. Photo Clive Wasson

Donegal Cheesemakers Noreen and James Cunningham. Photo Clive Wasson

Donegal Cheesemakers Noreen and James Cunningham. Photo Clive Wasson

He says TVOs aren’t just for those selling products online, they can also be used for those providing services.

“Maybe you’ve decided to open up your farmhouse as a B&B and want to reach a wider customer base,” he says.

“By establishing a website for your business, people can find you easier and can also book online.

“It’s all about enabling online trading, whatever form that comes in.”

LEOs also offer webinars which address how to best use your TVO.

“These webinars will also equip you with practical advice on how to talk to web developers and get your website developed as you’d like it,” Kevin says.

Case study: James Cunningham, from Donegal Farmhouse Cheese

“The best piece of advice I could give to anyone thinking of diversifying or creating a business on the farm is to do your own research and to learn from your mistakes,” says James.

He and his wife Noreen diversified their holding on the Wild Atlantic Way, to produce Donegal’s first artisan cheese.

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Noreen and James Cunningham of Donegal Farmhouse Cheese.

Noreen and James Cunningham of Donegal Farmhouse Cheese.

Noreen and James Cunningham of Donegal Farmhouse Cheese.

“At the start we made mistakes like putting in the wrong type of boilers,” he says.

“We did everything on a shoestring budget — and we learned a lot from things that went right and from things that went wrong.

“Diversifying has really been all about adding value for us.

“Good machinery is essential for what we’re doing, but it can be expensive.

“If you qualify for grant aid it can be a huge help. We got a Business Priming Grant from our LEO which was great.”

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James Cunningham with Millie, Jimmy and his Limousin cross suckler cattle.

James Cunningham with Millie, Jimmy and his Limousin cross suckler cattle.

James Cunningham with Millie, Jimmy and his Limousin cross suckler cattle.


Case study: Rosemary O’Shea, Tullahay Farm, Carrick-On-Suir, Co Tipperary

Testing the water before jumping in is essential, according to Rosemary, who diversified her and her husband Jim’s 230-cow dairy farm to make whey drinks.

“Adding value to our base product has been a great way of diversifying for us,” she says.

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Rosemary and James O Shea on their dairy farm at Tullahay Co Tipperary. Photo by John Kelly

Rosemary and James O Shea on their dairy farm at Tullahay Co Tipperary. Photo by John Kelly

Rosemary and James O Shea on their dairy farm at Tullahay Co Tipperary. Photo by John Kelly

“I think it’s really important, no matter what avenue you’re getting into, to explore the market and identify a gap before you do anything else,” she says.

“If you’re creating a product, allowing time for product development is essential. This stage can take two years and beyond.

“Expert advice from the relevant body in your field is invaluable too. We found Teagasc Moorepark fantastic for help, training and advice for anyone making a food or drink product.”.

“When you get up and running, listening to feedback from customers or clients can be really helpful too.”

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Tullahay Farm whey drinks

Tullahay Farm whey drinks

Tullahay Farm whey drinks

Case study: Caitriona and Robert Cullen, Cullen Nurseries, Hacketstown, Co Carlow

Looking to people who have the expertise in the field you’re hoping to enter is a good idea, says Caitriona Cullen, who diversified into farming, alongside their nursery, with her husband Robert.

“When we started farming, we got in touch with a good, reputable agent who sourced our cattle for us,” she says.

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Caitriona and Robert Cullen. Photo Roger Jones.

Caitriona and Robert Cullen. Photo Roger Jones.

Caitriona and Robert Cullen. Photo Roger Jones.

She has also found that good future planning along with access to knowledgeable advice is key when you want to add value to your holding.

“We started with heifers and then moved on to finishing Bord Bia approved U grade cattle, before getting into bullocks, as a bit of a challenge.

“It’s always good to plan for the future and to keep on trying to improve in your field.

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Robert and his son Joseph checking out the stock.

Robert and his son Joseph checking out the stock.

Robert and his son Joseph checking out the stock.

“Help and advice from our LEO was invaluable in the development and expansion of the nursery. They provided us with a marketing mentor, which was great.

“I was also accepted into the ACORNS programme which supports early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland and I found this great for making contacts and learning from others.”



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