Website lets you buy piece of Ireland for $50 - cashing in on Irish American nostalgia? - VIDEO
By: Daniel O'Carroll | Published Friday, December 21, 2012, 8:21 PM | Updated Friday, December 21, 2012, 8:21 PM
Irish plots, soil, available ahead of The Gathering
First it was acreage on the moon, now it's dinky one square foot plots of sod nestled somewhere in rural Ireland.
BuyIreland.com is one of several online Irish retailers stepping up their effort to make a quick buck from Irish-American nostalgia for the 'Emerald Isle' - taking a lead, no doubt, from government-sponsored initiatives like the controversial Certificate of Irish Heritage and that even more divisive initiative, The Gathering.
Founded by two Limerick businessmen in 2003, the website, allows willing customers a 20 year leasehold legal interest in the miniscule holdings, and is a sort of natural addition to web-based earth retailer officialirishdirt.com - covered in a 2007 article by the New York Times.
Like competitor APieceofIreland.com, it's questionable whether the tiny sum needed to make the purchase actually gives the customer long-term legal ownership of the land, but as a novelty gift it's more than enough to satisfy most punters.
That venture, itself operating since 2007, is one of a growing number of websites specializing in the retail of bags of the 'aul sod', as Irish ground is sometimes affectionately referred to as.
The business is one of only two such retailers to have been granted permission from the USDA to import foreign soil, a potentially dangerous vector for germs and insects, to the US; the other is an Israeli company offering Jerusalem dirt, according to Corey Kilgannon of the New York Times.
BuyIreland.com's customers certainly can't complain about the price.
Free worldwide shipping is included as standard in the meager $50 price-tag, which covers both the cost of the mini plot itself and the dispatch of a map showing precisely where your modest acquisition is actually located in the back and beyonds.
But what's driving this strange fetish for all things Irish soil?
Besides sentimentality, retailers say the certificates showing claim to the one square metre lots of ground are a valuable means for families to teach children about their Irish heritage, and to feel a connection to the home turf.
The soil and dirt retailers say customers' desire to have Irish gruond sprinkled over their ex-pat graves - often in cemeteries in locales as far-flung as Australia and South America - is a growing part of their market.
Clearly the market can also be big business: the New York Times article cited the case of one eccentric Cork-man who bought a six figure sum of the dirt just to fill his American grave with sod from the Rebel County.