The View from Northern Ireland: The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) held its bi-annual diversification awards evening recently at its Loughry Campus in Cookstown.

Representatives from key stakeholder groups joined senior Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and CAFRE staff to celebrate the conferring of the institute of leadership and management certificates to the successful participants of CAFRE’s diversification business challenge programmes.

Addressing the audience at the 10th diversification challenge awards evening, DARD permanent secretary Mr Noel Lavery said: “In the current challenging times, small business creation and development is a key driver of our local economy and has a particular role to play in the development of a sustainable rural economy. The uncertainty in the local and wider global economy has brought renewed attention to entrepreneurship as a means of creating jobs or supplementing farm and rural incomes. It is important that we support our farm based entrepreneurs to harness this potential.

“Diversification allows farming families to continue with the family tradition of farming whilst at the same time helping them to create an opportunity to increase their income. The diversification challenge programmes play a key role in helping people along this path. Since its establishment, it has assisted more than 2,000 farm family members to plan the development of their proposed new businesses.”

For pre-start up ventures, CAFRE offers specific business start training programmes to meet these needs whereas for those who are up and running CAFRE offers a business development training programme. CAFRE staff work closely with each other in helping to assess the diversification client’s needs and to make sure that the client gets the right help for their business circumstances.

But the night at Loughry was about celebrating the achievement of the recent successful programme participants. Praising the efforts of these diversifiers, Lavery continued: “Successful completion of your programme requires great commitment and is a key step for any farmer or farm family member thinking of starting up or developing their rural enterprise. Setting up and running a new business requires hard work, resilience and creativity which is clearly evident here tonight. I therefore commend you all for your great achievements which are rightly acknowledged.”

Pictured: Left to right Mr Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary, DARD; Dr Geoff McCullough, RMC Renewable Energy; Mrs Catherine Cunningham, The Present Tree; Mr James O’Boyle, Head of College Services Branch, CAFRE