DARD looks stateside
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development undertook a five day visit to the United States recently to examine rural tourism projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia and to establish linkages with educational institutions in North Carolina and Delaware.
DARD is responsible for the provision of education and training in agriculture in Northern Ireland and with CAFRE, (College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprises) provides courses for full and part-time participants up to degree level. Through contacts made in North Carolina as part of NIB’s State Outreach Strategy, North Carolina State University welcomed Roy McClenaghan, Deputy Secretary with responsibility for Delivery Services, and Dr Sam Kennedy, Director for Development at CAFRE, NIB Director, Tim Losty, and NIB Deputy Director, Michael Gould to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences campus in Raleigh.
Professor Larry Nelson, Assistant Dean of International Programs introduced the NI visitors to senior academic staff at NCSU including Dean Johnny C. Wynne (check) and Associate Dean Kenneth L. Esbenshade. Discussions centred on the issues facing the agri-food industry in North Carolina and Northern Ireland and how education establishments can deliver education services to ensure those working in the industry remain competitive. Recognising the similarity of the issues facing the industry NCSU were very interested to learn about DARD learning programmes such the interactive “Challenge Programmes” for farming enterprises such as Business Management, Fertility, and Grassland Management.
North Carolina has one of the highest pig populations in any State in the USA, and in common with Northern Ireland faces environmental concerns on the handling and disposal of animal waste. Roy and Sam were particularly keen to learn that NCSU has been undertaking research into this area for the past ten years and they welcomed the offer from NCSU to share their information and innovations. There were also very positive discussions with the Head of the Horticulture School and the Equine Extension Service. NCSU have already indicated that they wish to visit Northern Ireland in August to follow up on an exchange programme for CAFRE and NCSU staff and students.
The meetings at North Carolina were followed by a visit to South West Virginia to examine how rural communities had worked together to develop a vibrant tourism industry in a very isolated and deprived location. DARD heard how the towns of Abingdon and Damascus when faced with the closure of a mining company, had been innovative and had worked together to build up a significant tourism trade based on activity holidays using the former mine railway track as a “magnet” for walkers, wildlife watchers and mountain bikers. Both towns now had bike rental businesses, bed & breakfasts and hospitality businesses built up on this facility. One of the reasons to visit this site was to discuss with the local community leaders who they managed to bring the communities together to develop this trade. Both Sam and Roy were very impressed with the leadership qualities and how much they had achieved with limited physical and financial resources. They commented that this concept could be translated into rural development policies in Northern Ireland.
Before returning to Northern Ireland the DARD officials met with Professor Tom Kennedy, Dean at Delaware College in Dover, Delaware. At Dover Roy and Sam saw the student operated Farmers Market and discussed with College staff how this “learning by doing” project had evolved and developed.
NIB has extensive contacts at Federal, State and local government area across the USA and is happy to discuss with NICS Departments and their Agencies how examples of public policy in operation in the United States could be used to inform policy interests in their responsibility areas. Please contact Tim Losty, Director or Michael Gould, Deputy Director.