Farm Tours Ireland grows business year-on-year

The close links from farm to fork evident in Irish agriculture impress visitors to this country, according to the Giggins family – which is behind Farm Tours Ireland.

The Louth-based family business involves organising technical farm visits for farm enterprises – mainly for international visitors to this country.

“We work with our clients to craft an itinerary to suit their technical requirements – be it dairy, beef, tillage or sheep – as well as including some local tourism, history and culture,” said Siobhan who runs the venture with her brother Aonghus and their father, Gerry.

Gerry and Aonghus have a combined 40 years’ experience in the agricultural industry in their capacity as ruminant nutritionists.

Siobhan returned to the business last year, having completed her training in an accounting and tax firm in Dublin.

“Having travelled extensively internationally, we witnessed first-hand how people were fascinated by Ireland and, in particular, Irish agriculture – and it was from this that the idea of establishing Farm Tours Ireland came to fruition,” she said.

“Initially growth was very organic, stemming from groups that we had original contact with. However, in more recent times, social media and online marketing have contributed to the number of groups travelling,” Siobhan said.

“At first, our lack of expertise in the area of tourism was a challenge – we have learned from experiences, both positive and negative over the years.

The mentoring support that we have received from our Local Enterprise Office in Louth has been a big help.

The target market is international visitors to Ireland with an interest in agriculture and the agri food sector.

“Our aim is to spread the message of Irish agriculture to as wide a global audience as possible,” Siobhan said.

“Business is growing year-on-year. Our groups vary from individual travellers to large coach tours. To date this year we have hosted visitors from 18 countries including: China; USA; South Africa; Switzerland; and Denmark.”

The host farmers are given a fee in return for their time.

The feedback we get from host farmers is that they very much enjoy hosting the groups, as it gives them an opportunity to gain a different international perspective and they learn from the visits themselves.

“The response from visitors is always very positive with regard to the quality of the Irish agricultural industry. While the guests are often coming from countries with larger agricultural scale than Ireland, they are always impressed with the technical ability and quality of Irish farming.

“They also admire the joined-up thinking between all the stakeholders – from farmers, industry, and state bodies such as Teagasc, Bord Bia and Ornua.

“The guests really appreciate the close links from farm to fork, which often is not as obvious in their home countries,” she said.

“We always strive to dine in establishments where the produce is locally sourced and Bord Bia Quality Assured.

The guests are always very appreciative of the welcome they are afforded by the host farmers.

“Our tours include visits to food and beverage producers as well as tourist attractions, which guests greatly enjoy as it gives them a holistic view of Ireland.”

The Giggins hope to attend more international agriculture fairs in the coming years to get to meet with their target audience.

They will take part in the Local Enterprise Village, co-ordinated by the local enterprise offices, at this year’s National Ploughing Championships.