Teagasc Rural Economy Research Centre Building, Athenry, Galway
The premier Teagasc event for 1998 was hosted in Athenry on June 12th 1998 at Mellows Agricultural College Farm. It was a showcase event for farmers, part-time farmers and other rural dwellers.
The event attracted over 20,000 people from all corners of the country.
The title of the event Tomorrow’s Farm & Rural Enterprise clearly implied that the purpose was to help people to confront the challenges facing them over the next decade. While farming is the backbone of rural areas there is an increasing awareness that income from other sources is essential to maintain living standards and ultimately rural viability. The number of full-time farmers has declined from 200,000 in l966 to approximately 105,000 in 1997.
The Rural Enterprise Exhibition focused on farmers and rural people who need something in addition to mainstream farm enterprises to achieve viability.
Broadly, the choices were:
Develop a supplementary farm
Establish an enterprise in the tourism,
Food, craft or small manufacturing
Get part-time off-farm employment
It was possible to explore each and every one of those options on the day.
The exhibition had over 200 rural businesses on display as well as community groups and development agencies who assist people in various aspects of business planning and funding. Separate pavilions were devoted to Women in Business; Rural Tourism & Community Development; Crafts & Small Business, Farmhouse and Cottage Foods, Farm Forestry, Supplementary Farm Enterprises, Work Opportunities in Industry and the Business of Ecology.
The State assisted development and training Organisations such as County Enterprise Boards, LEADER, Partnership Boards, FÁS, The National Universities of Ireland — Galway, Cork and Dublin and Institutes of Technology had stand space for consultations and advice.
The Farm Exhibition had farming in all its diversity on show with emphasis on drawing together the indicators for future development, progress and prosperity in tandem with protecting the environment.
The College Farm of 650 acres, divided between research and training was used to full effect. Teagasc Advisers, Teachers and Specialist Staff were available to discuss management and financial aspects of the Dairy Unit, Mixed Grazing Farm, Sheep Farm, REPS Farm, Poultry Unit and Pig Unit.
New EU Proposals and their likely impact at farm level were grappled with.
Demonstrations and work-shops were on-going throughout the day. These included demonstrations on machinery, equipment, hedgerow management, habitat protection and work-shops on REPS.
The Department of Agriculture and Food had staff available to answer queries on premium/headage payments and to provide information on grass, cereal and root crop trials.
Major Co-ops, Associations, Financial Institutions, State Agencies and Third Level Educational Institutes had Information and Advice Services.
The conference programme addressed two issues:
Farming 2000 and Beyond
Food Safety-—- Implications for Farmers
Guest Speakers included: Dr Patrick Wall, Chief Executive, Food Safety Authority; Mr. John Malone, Secretary General, Dept. of Agriculture & Food; Mr. Matt Dempsey, Editor & Chief Executive, Irish Farmers Journal.
Tomorrow’s Farm & Rural Enterprise was evaluated independently by The Social Sciences Research Centre of the National University of Ireland, Galway. 90% of those surveyed found the event helpful and highly beneficial. If you missed this year’s event in Athenry don’t worry! A book describing each of the exhibitors and help agencies in the Rural Enterprise section is available. A major Teagasc Rural Enterprise and Farming Exhibition “is on the cards” for Clonakilty, Co. Cork next year and Kildalton, Co. Kilkenny in the milestone year 2,000. Go mbeirimid beo!
Nuala King, Teagasc, Rural Development Centre, Athenry.
Written by Nuala King
Published here 01 Mar 2023 and originally published Summer 1998