In accordance with the principles of partnership and subsidiarity, the governance and rural development model claims to foster representative and economically diverse rural development largely on the basis of its involvement of a variety of local stakeholders as decision-makers in the design and implementation of development action. The capacity of governance and rural development models to represent a diverse range of interests for the purposes of developing the rural economy is hinged on a number of social, cultural and economic assumptions, however, among them the broad generalisation that rural inhabitants are competent actors in the development process [LEADER European Observatory (1997) Organising local partnerships; Innovation in rural areas, notebook no. 2. 1997. Brussels, Belgium: LEADER European Observatory/ AEIDL]. The reality, however, is that social groups are differently resourced, differently skilled, and have different cultural identities and occupational preferences. Such differences are among the factors that lead to different social groups engaging to different extents with contemporary governance and rural development initiatives. Farmers, for instance, have been noted to be relatively marginalised from contemporary rural development initiatives such as the EU LEADER programme [Van der Ploeg (2003) Rural development and the mobilisation of local actors. Proceedings of the Salzburg Conference Planting Seeds for Rural Futures - Rural Policy Perspectives for a Wider Europe, Salzburg, Austria]. With growing emphasis in EU rural development policy on the need for diversification in rural income-generating activity, research that pays attention to how different social groups are engaging with contemporary paradigms for rural development is of ongoing importance. Drawing from qualitative research conducted in Ireland, this paper contributes to the ongoing debate on local participation in governance and rural development. It focuses in particular on members of the traditional farming community and the socio-cultural context of their participation in contemporary rural development activities.