Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme

The Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme was established in 2008 by The Heritage Council in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine of the Government of Ireland. It was conceived in response to the rapid changes in agricultural practice and growing concern about the subsequent loss of traditional farm buildings, the associated traditional skills and the impact this would have on the character of the Irish rural landscape.

Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme, Kilkenny, IRELAND

This nationwide competitive scheme is co-funded by the Irish government and the European Union under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme. It runs on an annual basis, with an average of 70-80 projects supported a year.

While such buildings often fall below the threshold of ‘special interest’ that justifies their protection under the law for architectural heritage, these simple vernacular structures are fundamental to the character of Ireland’s rural landscape. They 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.

Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme, Kilkenny, IRELAND

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.

Over 1,000 buildings have now been repaired since the beginning of the scheme. 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 Traditional Farm Buildings Scheme is commendable for its wide-reaching, high-impact and holistic approach, which demonstrates integrated policies at work. 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 Awards’ Jury said.

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.

Contact: Anna Meenan, The Heritage Council | |