A fund of €330,000 to support social farming operations and the local food and artisan markets initiative in rural areas has been allocated by the Department of Agriculture.

The announcement of the funding by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Minister of State Ann Phelan is available for 2015 only.

The two pilot initiatives operate under the CEDRA Rural Innovation and Development Fund.

Both schemes have limited funding, so proposals will be selected on a competitive basis against the other proposals received and the funds stated objectives, it says.

These schemes are being advertised nationally in local papers. Application forms and fuller schemes details can be found on the Department’s website

Social farming is the practice of offering, on a voluntary basis, farming, horticultural and animal related work experience as a choice to people who avail of a range of day support services, the Department says.

This CEDRA fund will provide up to 75% grant aid for initiatives that support social farming operations on family farms or in institutional settings, it says.

The Department says that a funding range of €10,000-20,000 is envisaged for approved projects.

Minister Ann Phelan, who is responsible for the implementation of the CEDRA Report, also emphasised the opportunities for inclusion, improved self esteem and better health and well-being which flowed from involvement in social farming operations.

She urged all existing social farming operations to maximise the opportunity now being presented to enhance their operations.

Community based local food and artisan markets

Minister Phelan also underlined the importance of the CEDRA micro enterprise funding available for community based local food and artisan markets.

She said that this scheme is open to all rural towns and villages with populations of up to 10,000 and offers potential funding of between €5,000-10,000 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.

The closing date for applications under both schemes is August 14, 2015. Online applications only are being accepted.