The Department of Agriculture has announced it is part-funding two initiatives in the areas of social farming and local food-artisan markets. These two pilot initiatives, which are independent of each other, operate under the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) Rural Innovation and Development Fund and attract a combined dedicated fund of up to €330,000, available for 2015 only. One of CEDRA's roles is to examine the ways in which rural areas can contribute to and benefit from national economic development strategies

Speaking at the launch of the initiatives, Minister Coveney welcomed this social enterprise, saying “these activities have my whole hearted support as I have seen at first hand the potential of these services to enhance and transform the lives of both the clients and providers who take up the challenge.”

Social farming

Social farming is the practice of offering horticultural and animal related work experience on a voluntary basis as a choice to people who avail of a range of day support services. The CEDRA fund will provide up to 75% grant aid for initiatives that support social farming operations on family farms or in institutional settings and a funding range of €10,000 to €20,000 is envisaged for approved projects.

Community based local food and artisan markets

Commenting on the funding for local food and artisan markets, Minister Phelan said the scheme is open to all rural towns and villages with populations of up to 10,000, and offers potential funding of between €5,000 and €10,000 for development of existing or start-up local food and artisan markets. "This is the type of project which proactively supports rural development as it helps stimulate commercial and retail activity in rural high streets as well as developing a strong sense of community involvement and achievement,” she said.

As both schemes have limited funding, proposals will be selected on a competitive basis against the other proposals received and the funds stated objectives. Application forms are available on the Department's website and the closing date for applications under both schemes is 14 August 2015. The Department states that only online applications are being accepted.