Simply, we believe that integral to rural regeneration and the projects created to support such an aim should be the creation of viable-from-all-perspectives, sustainable rural businesses. Amongst these will be family-farms, localized food processing and related tourism and leisure activities.
A concern we have is that many regions are over-reliant on government and/or European Union funded support payments. They have become an expected part of the incomes of farming and local communities. One can also argue that others in the supply-chain have also factored them into farm-gate prices so they are, in effect, subsidizing those beyond the farm-gate. True, it could also be argued that they are subsidizing farms which are too small and economically inefficient.
In the case of the Irish family-farm, they are either too small or the price they receive is too low or both. One or other has to change. With an entrenched farmland structure, one would argue that the focus has to be on farm-gate prices and increasing the value of such. Unfortunately Ireland has a history of commodity production and that situation has actually been reinforced by recent national agri-food policy. That has to change and its emphasis placed upon family farm incomes and locally producing food products that can directly and upwardly influence farm-gate prices.
Whilst, there is a long history of support payments they are vulnerable to change. The tax-paying public will also wish to see more transparency over what their return is for these on-going payments. They will want to see them more clearly defined as payments for services provided.
Our emphasis is, therefore, to focus on food product creation. It is about selling products with a recognised origin and characteristics that are linked to the concerns of the issues-aware buying-public. It is about deriving income from these food products and seeing all other payments as supplementary to income from farm [and local-processing sales]. It is about developing a greater degree of market-derived financial sustainability for family farms than is often currently the case.