Diversification in focus at Armagh Down

Sharon Porter, Rosemary Hughes, Pat McKay, Jim Magill and Barbara Simms.
Sharon Porter, Rosemary Hughes, Pat McKay, Jim Magill and Barbara Simms.

At the last meeting of the Armagh Down group winter programme the message to all that attended was ‘just do it!’ in relation to launching a farm diversification.

The evening’s speakers included Rosemary Hughes from SOAR, who are a local action group responsible for the delivery of the NI Rural development programme 2014–2020 on behalf of the Department of Agriculture in the ABC Council area.

Rosemary spoke about the application process, and the key areas of focus from the funding body. She also gave an insight into the next Rural Business Investment Scheme which will offer 3.18m to support and encourage the development of non-agricultural activities in rural areas for all micro and small enterprises.

We also were lucky to have three rural business owners as speakers. Mrs Sharon Porter from ‘Bide a While’ a country tea room outside Mountnorris which was born out of Sharon’s passion for baking and love of conversation. Sharon shared how the tea room was going from strength to strength with people travelling for miles to sample both the home made food and the atmosphere.

Sharon’s message was to follow your instinct and don’t be discouraged by the doubters or barriers that present themselves.

Our second business speaker was Mr Jim Magill, from Mount Mills Flax oil, who produces cold pressed flax oil from his farm at Glen Road, Newry. The cold pressed flax oil for horses is produced from seed to drum on site. Jim shared his experience of being part of the ‘Farm Fixer’ series of TV shows with Nick Hewer.

Our final business owner on the night was Mrs Barbara Simms owner of Ballydougherty Ice-cream, an artisan ice-cream manufacturer. Barbara shared how she turned her dream of having her own business into reality in 2011 and how she strives to improve and develop what she offers as well as being a busy mum and wife.

Thank you to all who spoke at and attended this and all our events throughout the winter. We will soon be sitting down with the Group Committee to come up with our next programme of events – so if you have any suggestions please get in touch with the office: 02837551612.

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