The Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme which was established to prevent the loss of traditional farm buildings due to the rapid change in agricultural practices has won an EU award.

Established in 2008, the scheme was developed by the Heritage Council in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Union.

Running on an annual basis, an average of 70-80 projects are supported every year, with over 1,000 buildings repaired since the beginning of the scheme.

These structures are fundamental to the character of Ireland’s rural landscape and are repositories of traditional building and craft skills as well as stores of memories and historic artefacts.

Their link to the landscape and the natural environment is exemplified by their role as important habitats for numerous native species of plants and animals and as significant embodied carbon.

Scheme objective

The principal objective of the scheme is to help farmers recognise the cultural value of these buildings and to ensure that they are conserved for agricultural use.

Participants are supported in acquiring skills to enable them to carry out repairs to return the buildings to functional use on the farm. Skilled craftspeople are also engaged, and each participant must appoint a conservation supervisor who guides conservation ethos. Each participant commits to repairing in a way that will not adversely impact on wildlife populations. This requires the input of an ecologist who helps ensure a holistic outcome of the project.

Of equal importance is the extraordinary success in changing attitudes surrounding vernacular heritage and traditional skills. On an informal level, the scheme facilitates the transmission of skills from generation to generation, with the whole family often getting involved in conservation works.

It has been observed that it is often the younger generation who feel most strongly about the traditional buildings on the family farm being conserved.

The awards' jury commended the scheme for its

“wide-reaching, high-impact and holistic approach", which demonstrates integrated policies at work.

Peer-to-peer learning

"Its emphasis on peer-to-peer learning has brought together diverse stakeholders, including owners, local community, conservationists, craftspeople and ecologists, creating meaningful connections and mutual understanding."

“The scheme addresses the underappreciated value of vernacular farm buildings, heritage assets that are often overlooked in Ireland and beyond and encourages a sense of guardianship among the owners. It acknowledges farm buildings’ pivotal role in shaping the cultural landscape and actively contributes to the continuation of traditional crafts in contemporary society.

"By championing the reuse of humble rural structures to meet modern needs and focusing on environmental and biodiversity considerations, the Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme sets a very positive example of how communities can respond to climate change”, the jury added.