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Gildernew encourages ‘Focus Farmers’

19 August, 2008

Model farmers across the North are being asked to apply to become Focus Farms within the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 (RDP) Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA said today.

Through the RDP, a range of farm businesses will be selected to become Focus Farms. This coaching and mentoring scheme will introduce farmers to a series of new and emerging technologies as well as demonstrating how to take a more business orientated approach.

Focus Farmers will host farm visits and demonstrate good practice across a range of farm types. The scheme will establish a network of up to 60 farms and promote the adoption of good production, business and environmental practice.

The Minister said:

"I am encouraging farmers to apply to the Focus Farm scheme so that they can share best practice with their neighbours and the wider farming community. The main objective of the scheme is to facilitate farmer-led learning. It will enable farmers to learn from the experiences of the Focus Farmers, share and solve common problems and benchmark their own business performance. The Focus Farms scheme also offers farmers the opportunity to develop innovative methods to improve existing farm practices.

"Visiting farmers can also benefit from direct mentoring by the Focus Farmers and explore ideas arising from the farm visit. I am encouraging all farmers to make full use of focus farms to further help improve their own farm businesses."

This scheme is currently open for applications from those wishing to become Focus Farmers within a specific range of key areas and regions. Key areas include the Dairy, Beef, Sheep, Pigs, Arable, Commercial Horticulture, Organic, Renewable Crops, Diversification and Environmental sectors.

The Focus Farm scheme will aim to have 10,000 visitors to focus farms over the period of the programme and to train 6000 individual farmers.

Further information can be obtained from Colin Rea at Loughry Campus on 028 8676 8398.

The Rural Development Programme is funded under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).


  1. The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 was approved by the EU's Rural Development Committee on 24 July 2007.
  2. The Focus Farm scheme is an element of Axis 1.1 of the Rural Development Programme - Vocational Training and Information Actions.
  3. The main objective of Axis 1.1 is to improve the competitiveness of farm and horticulture businesses in the North of Ireland through the provision of a range of innovative and focused training and information actions.
  4. Funding will be made available to Focus Farmers to establish and maintain their farm as a training facility - for example: Enhancement of Facilities up to a maximum of £8,750. This measure is will to run to 2012 and has a budget of £3.2m. DARD will, through its Managing Agent, train all focus farmers in the relevant skills to deliver training, mentoring, keep records etc and ensure their farms conform to current standards e.g. bio security, adherence to statutory regulations, disease free etc.

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