Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A letter to The Irish Times 27/12/2011


A sticky encounter at the airport

·                                 Sir, – One of Britain’s finest food and drink writers has had three pots of Irish homemade jam confiscated from him at Dublin airport by the anti-terrorism police.

James Crowden, who has won the Andre Simon Food Award for his book Ciderland, had been invited by Bord Bia to address a meeting of apple-growers and cider-makers in Drogheda about the history of Irish cider and the future for artisan cider-making.
The next day he went to Granard, the birthplace of his great, great, great, grandfather, Dennis Crowden. And in the Greville Arms, where a peat fire was burning nicely, he purchased three jars of homemade jam from a man called Alan who had just finished his stint at the Granard Country Markets. James bought three jars of jam (apricot, plum and blackberry), from him. Each had a traceable number. The value of the jam was €2.50 a jar, having local discount for buying in bulk.
These three jars of jam were to be a Christmas present to James’s father who is housebound in Somerset, England but still makes excellent jam. A small Christmas present from Granard and Co Longford.
Three hours later while boarding his flight back to Bristol EI3286 – on December 16th James Crowden was stopped by customs and anti-terrorism police at Dublin airport Terminal 1. His hand luggage was searched and the three jars of jam were confiscated. He was given no reason other than that they were in the wrong shaped jar. The jar should have been 100ml. The jam was not tested and neither was a receipt given for the jam. The jam was perfectly solid and was not a liquid.
We are calling on the authorities to give a full explanation for their actions and return the jam to its rightful owner via the good office of the solicitors Pol O’Murchu.
It seems ironic that Mr Crowden, who was invited over by Bord Bia to give advice on how to boost the Irish rural economy should be penalised in this way. These regulations obviously have a detrimental effect not only on the growth of Irish rural industry and country markets, but Irish tourism as well. Two vital ingredients to Ireland’s recovery.
In the UK, specially-trained dogs, usually spaniels, are used to sniff out explosives. Why not employ specially trained Irish dogs to sniff out homemade country market jam? That way customs would have an easy test and save lost of time and embarrassment.
What Mr Crowden wants to know is what did they do with the three jars of jam? Did they destroy them with a controlled explosion? Put them in a landfill site? Incinerate them? Or take them home and eat the jam themselves? The Irish nation needs answers. – Is mise,
Cé Urmhumhan Uachtarach,
Baile Átha Cliath 7.



Thursday, 22 December 2011

Media Update 22/12/011

Country Markets will have a column in February 2012 issue of Easy Food magazine.This time we've gone for a garden theme. David Curran, National Treasurer and member of Fethard branch in Tipperary, has done a beginners guide to growing potatoes and vegetables. It's a great opportunity to showcase the great variety of produce and skill within the markets.

Check out this new blog by my Country Market colleague Sandra Bogan

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Portlaoise News 10/12/2011

Two members from Portlaoise Country Market have been selected to exhibit their crafts at the 2011 Year of Craft Exhibition in Dunamise Arts Centre, Portlaoise. Mary Meehan and Abigail Melia will display their millinery and jewellery alongside other craft workers, designers and artists from Laoise and further afield. A Pop Up Craft Shop on 17/12/2011 will allow the public to meet the exibitors and buy their work. The exhibition runs for the month of December.

News from Stradbally Country Market 10/12/2011

Mary Phelan, an investigative consumer journalist with Irish Country Living magazine visited Stradbally branch of Country Markets today. Mary was there to get some photos to accompany her feature which I believe will be in next weeks issue.

Mary Phelan
Stradbally have been going from strength to strength since they started almost a year ago. Two of the fouding members are daughters of a past member of my own market in Granard, Co. Longford, and so the tradition lives on.

St Patrick’s Hall was filled with a great selection of Christmas fare, excellent fresh vegetables, along with beautiful holly wreaths, jewellery, cards and craft.

It takes a lot of work to achieve what Stradbally have, and in such a short time, so well done everyone.

The Bridgestone Award won at Electric Picnic

Monday, 5 December 2011

Free Innovation Workshop

Bord Bia will be hosting a free Innovation Workshop on Thursday 8th December in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, Naas Road, Dublin.

The workshop is geared towards small to medium food enterprises and budding food entrepreneurs. It runs from 9am-4.30pm

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Westport Country Market 02 and 03/12/2011

Watch Westport Country Market, which was featured on Friday's Ireland AM TV programme.

Today (Saturday) the branch  featured in an interview on a Today FM radio show with Phil Cawley.

Any opportunity we get to showcase our markets is great, so always include the national web address . This ensures that all branches benefit from the publicity, and lets people know we are a national cooperative. Cooperatives are again been looked at as a way forward, and with 2012 being the Year of the Cooperative, we should let it be known that we've been one  for the last  65 years!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Proposal for Funding 30/11/2011

Today we submitted our funding proposal to Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture. We have been receiving a small annual grant from the Department of Agriculture, which has in the past, gone towards PR training, and computer training for members. If we are successful in getting this funding, we will use it for marketing, promotion and development.

Media Update 30/11/2011

Country Markets will feature in the December/January issue of Easy Food magazine.

This will be the third consecutive issue we have been in, and it has been a great boost to members.

We have also been in contact with ‘Smallholder’, the national UK monthly magazine. There is a substantial readership for the magazine here, which caters for the small farmer, allotment holder and gardener. The editor, has agreed to feature Country Markets, and we will submit an article in the Spring. They are currently working on the February issue.

Stradbally branch, and the group who did us proud at Electric Picnic in September  
will also be featured in Country Living Magazine (magazine with Farmers Journal) nearer Christmas. They took one of the five Bridgestone awards given out at the festival this year. The Best On Your Doorstep Award was awarded for best use of local produce.

The Bakers Den, a facebook page set up by one of our members, sharing recipies, tips and ideas.

This contemplative blog was also set up by one of our members.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Dublin’s Lord Mayor visits Raheny Branch 22/11/2011

Dublin’s Lord Mayor Andrew Montague visited Raheny Country Market on Friday. It was a great occasion, lots of people turned out to meet him. In his speech the Lord Mayor talked about his interest in markets, and the re-development of the Victorian Fruit and Vegetable Market in Dublin. The Queen was brought to The English Market when she visited Cork earlier this year and he feels Dublin should have its equal. The plan is to refurbish the market which is occupied by a small number of wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower sellers, and to provide 40,000sq ft for food retailers.

Country Markets are seeking to establish more markets in and around Dublin. I will be meeting the Lord Mayor in the new year.
Some Raheny Craft

Christmas Decorations

The Good Food Ireland Conference and Awards 25/11/2011

Good Food Ireland is a network of people who are committed to high ethical standards and local Irish food. They form a network of producers that make, sell, and serve good food and quality accommodation. Their Guide and Touring map includes over 150 independently run B+B’s, cafes, restaurants, and pubs. A number of preferred business partners work closely with Good Food Ireland include The Irish Times, Newstalk 106, Hugo Arnold (food journalist), The School of Restaurant and Kitchen Management, and Barry Packaging.

Margaret Jeffares, founder of Good Food Ireland invited me to attend their conference, as she expressed an interest in Country Markets Ltd coming under their brand.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD officially opened the conference. He spoke of the need to promote high quality food both domestically and internationally. Irish people traveling within Ireland are also tourists,many wanting to taste regional foods take part in Food Trails or workshops.

I spoke to Helen Gee, a former member of Country Markets. Helen now runs G’s Gourmet Jams which are made on the family farm in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, where the bulk of fruit is grown. She is delighted that sales for their jam have risen 4% this year, attributing this to people returning to homemade produce and homemade taste.

There were 10-12 producer members there who provided a wonderful lunch for us. Trout pate, oak-smoked salmon, yogurts, cheeses, black pudding, sausages, breads, potato bread, oatcakes,relishes,smoked chicken, spiced beef, terrines.....beautiful food by people wanting to promote their best.

Mairead Lavery, Editor of Country Living magazine chaired the conference. I spoke to her about the growing interest in Country Markets and our value in the community. Mairead would like to do an article on us in her magazine in 2012.

At the Awards ceremony later that evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made the presentations to the winners. The atmosphere was one of excitement , anticipation, and a genuine warmth between the members who were supportive of each other.

I will be talking later to Margaret Jeffares to establish what the criteria for becoming a member are.
Helen Gee

Mairead Lavery

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bank of Ireland Enterprise week 18-25/11/2011


Some of our branches were involved in this earlier in the year and it is running again. Why not showcase your market at your local branch of Bank of Ireland?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Management Meeting


The final meeting of the year took place on Monday last. We are delighted to welcome a full time Regional Representative, Kathleen Dempsey, Carraigaline branch market. A number of markets in Co Cork and a branch in Co Kerry.were not adequately supported for a long time, as no nominations were being put forward from the region .Earlier this Summer, Emer Duffy, our previous Chairman undertook to support them short term and I thank her for that.

A Frequently Asked Questions page is to be added to our website. We deal with a lot of the same queries by phone or e mail, now this information will also be available online.

We have contacted the four councils in Dublin in an effort to get more markets established in the region. Allotment growing has become popular over the past few years, and there has been an encouraging response from these enquiries. Later this month I will be meeting the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague who has a keen interest in reviving the traditional market.

The proposal for funding awaits two more costings , and is ready for submission to Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture.

There are three of our branches featured in the current edition of Easy Food magazine, and a new producer profile on the website.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Dungarvan Country Market


Leaving Waterford I headed for Dungarvan Country Markets, held weekly in the Causeway Tennis Club.

The sun was shining and the tennis courts were in use as children were still on Halloween holidays.

The market recently had a make over,during which the neighbouring supermarket offered space, which allowed normal Friday morning trading to continue.

New members have joined in the last couple of months and are being made very welcome. Existing members have held back on some of their production to give a chance to the younger members. A perfect example of cooperation, and everyone is happy.

There were handmade cards,an extensive range of baking including a gluten free range, vegetables, eggs and preserves.

Visit to Waterford Country Market


I decided to make the most of my trip to the South-East and visit some of our branch markets based there.

Waterford Country Market takes place every Friday morning in St Olaf’s Hall, Waterford City. They had two new members who started that morning, and another new member who started the previous week.There were vegetables both whole and prepared, plants, baking, preserves and local honey.

Christmas logs,and arrangements, along with packs of Christmas cards, beautiful hand stitched wreaths and stockings added to the great variety.

Meeting in New Ross, Co Wexford

On Thursday evening I met the prospective members of New Ross Country Market.
They hope to hold their market in the Rugby Club, and start in the next week or so.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

New Market Opening

I’m delighted to announce the opening of another new market. New Ross Country Market will start out in the next fortnight. I will be visiting the group tomorrow evening to finalise details.

Halloween Recipes and Craft

The website included two recipes and a craft item with detailed instructions on how to make each. The recipes, a savoury dish of pumpkin tortilla with garlic aeoli, sent in by Ravensdale branch, the sweet recipe was for a Halloween brack, sent in by Skibbereen branch market. And the craft item- a scary spider submitted by Granard branch. Thank you to all markets for helping to keep the website fresh and up to date.

Ballynacargy Country Market

The market made a brief appearence on Waterways on Sunday evening 30/10/2011 The programme can be seen for another fortnight on the RTE player.

NDC Women and Agriculture Conference

Two of our members, Josephine Lynch from Portumna and Fiona McCorry from Portlaoise represented Country Markets at the recent conference held in Kilkenny. It was attended by at least 700 women. Speakers included Aidan Cotter Bord Bia, Simon Coveney Minister of Agriculture, Margaret Jeffares Good Food Ireland and Valerie Kingston, dairy farmer and founder of Glenilen Foods in Dunmanway.
One of the topics covered was farming, food and tourism with Margaret Jeffares, whom I have heard speak previously. She is a great advocate of Food Trails and I feel that it is an area we could get involved in. Thomastown Country Market took part in such a trail at the recent Savour Kilkenny event when a bus tour stopped off at participating venues around the county.

Country Markets flyers were left on every seat, the opportunity to spread the word was too good to miss.

Country Markets feature in Easy Food

Three of our markets will be in the December issue of Easy Food magazine. Achill, Fethard-on-Sea and Kilternan branch markets will be part of a half page feature giving details of their Christmas markets and the wonderful range of crafts and food available.

Proposal for Funding

Over the last three weeks a working group from the Board of Management have been drafting a proposal for funding for 2012. It is intended to submit this proposal to Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture to assist us in promotion and marketing.

The draft is included for final discussion on the agenda at the next management meeting on 07/11/2011.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Our New Producer Profile

Don't forget to check out the latest addition to our website countrymarkets.ie. We now have a producer profile spot, which I’m sure will generate interest not just with visitors to the site, but with members also. For anyone who would like to contribute, please send your profile to me at margaret@kjsblues.com. The objective of the profile is to let people know we are a diverse group with varied talents, from different walks of life, sharing a belief in localised self help and a desire to enrich our communities socially and economically.

Your profile should be 250-300 words, about
(a) who you are and perhaps your family
(b) a little background on how you started producing for Country Markets
(c) if your skill was developed on the family farm/business or you had specific training
(d) any awards/prizes you have won
(e) some photographs of yourself, your produce, your awards.

Each of us contributes to the great diversity in our markets, and our stories are of interest to others. After all people want to know about people. Who knows your story might inspire someone to make something more of their skill, or even become a member!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

New Market Opens

Our most recent market opened in Upper Glanmire on Friday last 30/09/2011 and they had a great first day. I wish them every success as they start out.

Ballynacargy Country Market

Ballynacargy Country Market will feature on Waterways (RTE1, Sunday evenings) Dick Warner’s series about his journey along the restored Royal Canal aboard a 19th- century barge, last used on the route in 1923. Ballynacargy in Co Westmeath is near the canal . The first of six episodes was shown last Sunday evening 02/10/2011 at 8.30pm so keep an eye out for Ballinacargy Country Markets.

Beltra Country Market

Beltra Country Market is featured in the November issue of Easy Food magazine. This is Ireland’s number one food magazine, and statistics show the readers are people we would like to know, those with young families. The article is about 250-300 words, has some nice photos and is well worth studying to see how to get that all important information included, without it sounding like a sales pitch!

Limerick Regional Food Event 03/10/2011

On 03/10/2011 two of our members attended a regional food event in Thomond Park, Limerick. The event which was free, was a joint agency initiative led by Bord Bia and Atlantic Way. Failte Ireland, LEADER groups, County Enterprise boards and Teagasc were also involved.

The objective was to stimulate awareness and generate demand for local food. Food producers from Clare, Galway and Limerick showcased their produce to local retailers and foodservice buyers in what is known as a B2B, or business to business venture.

Minister Simon Coveney addressed the audience and made reference to Country Markets. I had asked him at a previous event to mention us when he spoke of the agri food and artisan sector and the contribution we are making.

Even though we did not take part in the display it proved a very rewarding experience. Josephine from Portumna market and Betty from Nenagh market spent the evening networking. They spoke with representatives of Bord Bia, Teagasc and Failte Ireland, it was also interesting that the producers present knew about us.

They also spoke with Simon Coveney and had a photograph taken. This is a good way to put a face on the organisation, get out there and be visible to the agencies and various bodies.

Thank you Josephine and Betty.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Suggested Reading

 In June Annette O Leary of Achill Country Market published a booklet on edible seaweeds. ‘Achill’s Hidden Garden,- Edible Seaweeds’ is an introduction to the seashore, including identification, harvesting and storing of sea vegetables.

Annette lives in the house where she was born and reared in Pollagh, Keel on Achill Island. Growing up the children of the area used the seashore as their playground, and Annette learned all she knows about seaweeds from her grandparents, parents and aunts.

She harvests enough for her family and Achill Country Market. This was a poor year for harvesting Duileasc, it needs to be picked and dried in one day. Commercial supplies of Duileasc are much saltier as no natural sun in used in the drying process.

The booklet is available through local shops in Achill, (Euro 5) or direct from Annette.
Annette O Leary
Achill Island,
Co Mayo.

Annette recommends Quality Sea Veg in Burtonport for those wishing to buy ready mixed sea spice or sea veg and Dr Prannie Rhattigans recipe book The Irish Seaweed Kitchen.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Area Meeting Cahir 26/09/2011

Our final area meeting took place in Cahir House Hotel and eleven markets were represented, Bandon, Carraigaline, Cahir, Dungarvan, Fethard, Mountrath, Nenagh, Portlaoise, Portumna, Tulla and Stradbally.

Nominations were sought for a Regional Representative to support some of our colleagues in Kerry and West Cork. It is important that every member is aware of being part of a National organisation rather than an isolated market and that we can all work together to achieve future goals.

Members were in agreement that we should have a presence at the National Ploughing Championships, Bloom, Dublin Horse Show and Electric Picnic.

On the way home I called to see Peter Ward at his delicatessen and coffee bar Country Choice in Nenagh. Peter has been a long time friend of Country Markets supporting us for many years and has been a guest speaker at a number of our meetings.
Country Choice has a reputation for sourcing, cooking , and selling great food. The shop has a network of committed local suppliers for seasonal fruit and veg, country butter, eggs and poultry.

As a member of Tipperary Slow Food Peter sought the help of our friends in Nenagh Country Markets to supply the desserts for Blas an Fhomhair, a not for profit community harvest lunch held in the town annually.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Interesting Historical Photo

I came across this photo at http://fethard.com/news_archive_2011/cnews.110509.html
Pictured at one of the first Country Market stalls in Fethard are L to R: Olivia Hughes, Phyllis O'Connell, Dolly O'Keeffe and Peggy Tierney (later Mrs Moore).

Raheny Country Market Celebrations 16/09/2011

I was delighted to take part in the 20th birthday of Raheny Country Market on Friday.
When I arrived many of their loyal customers were enjoying a cup of tea and birthday cake on the house.

The market is held in The Johnston Hall every Friday morning from 10.30am - 12 noon, and there is a good selection of produce including some very nice jewellery and craft. Their gluten free baking on the first Friday of each month is very popular and customers travel quite a distance to buy.
Senator Averil Power chats to customers

Opening of Cashel Blue’s New Dairy 15/09/2011

I was invited to the official opening of Cashel Blue’s new cheese dairy at their farm in Fethard, Co Tipperary. The invitation was extended as Country Markets in Fethard provided the first outlet for their cheese in the early 1980’s. It was wonderful to see how the family developed their on-farm enterprise over the years and are now exporting Cashel Blue as far as Beijing and Milan.

I was one of five guest speakers, others included John McKenna (who gave us a Bridgestone Award at Electric Picnic), Eimear O Donnell of Bord Bia, Sergio Furno Director of Cashel Blue and Patricia Gouldsbury of Carlow Brewing.

The official opening was performed by Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney. I spoke to him and asked that he include Country Markets when speaking about the artisan sector in Ireland and acknowledges the contribution we are making to the sector.

I made contact with Bord Bia and will be writing a letter to the CEO Aidan Cotter seeking sponsorship to host a number of events next year celebrating International Year of the Cooperative.

Visiting Hannie Leahy 15/09/2011

Last Thursday I visited Hannie at her home in Annsgift, Fethard, Co Tipperary. Hannie recently celebrated her 93rd birthday (born 01/09/1919) and continues to be an active producer in her local Country Market in Fethard. Over tea and some of her freshly baked scones she told me a little of her life story and her involvement in Country Markets.

She was the youngest of three children born and raised a short distance from where she lives today. Her father worked as a gardener for Major and Mrs Hughes of Annsgift Estate now part of Coolmore Stud. In 1947 Mrs Hughes encouraged the women of the area to join with her and start up Ireland’s first Country Market. The market was to be run along the lines of The Womens Institute Markets in England.

Hannie remembers those early days with many members from a large catchment area, and the variety of produce. There was homebaking, eggs, jams, vegetables, shrubs, cut flowers, fruit and honey. Produce was wrapped in newspaper and eggs in paper bags.

Hannie is a living link with the very first Country Market. She still feels passionate about Country Markets and believes we are more relevant now than ever. I am delighted to have met her as she has made such a great contribution to our organisation and continues to be an inspiration for the future.

Area Meeting Sligo 13/09/2011

Our meeting took place in the Clarion Hotel, Sligo. Eleven markets were represented; Granard, Ballymote, Ballina, Leghowney, Ballynacargy, Beltra, Achill, Ramelton, Dunfanaghy, Westport and Mohill.

Two issues require follow up.
1. Should we continue to include the Head Office address on the label?
2. Investigate the cost of bulk ordering cake boxes and corrugated plastic cake boxes.

Area Meeting Cahir 12/09/2011

Unfortunately this meeting had to be cancelled due to the weather. However it has been rescheduled for 26/09/2011, same venue.

Area Meeting Newtownmountkennedy, Wicklow 05/09/2011

Our second area meeting took place in The Parkview Hotel, Newtownmountkennedy on Monday. Seven markets were represented, North County Wicklow who organised the meeting, Raheny, Blessington, Naas, Ravensdale, Kilternan and Fethard-on-Sea.

The markets reported an increase in business for some and people felt this was as a result of media coverage, so our campaign is working.

The following suggestions were made
1. Including 1947 our year of establishment on our new label.
2. The feasibility of running a short intensive gluten free baking course with Master Baker Derek O Brien of The Baking Academy Palmerstown.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Electric Picnic 02-04/09/2011

Marian Condren, Ella McSweeney RTE
Teresa Fingleton, Sean O'Rourke RTE, Marian Condren
Country Markets made their debut at this music and arts festival in Stradbally Estate, Laois at the weekend. Stradbally members spent many months in consultation with the event organisers to bring this about. Two other markets joined with them, Portlaoise and Graiguecullen.

I spent Friday evening and Saturday at the Country Market in the Minefield area which included the Theatre of Food where lots of demonstrations and talks on food took place.

Fortune favours the bold they say, Stradbally members were fearless heading into this territory and its scale of catering. I was very impressed with the variety they offered. Breakfasts included porridge, homemade muesli (both with gluten free options) served with local honey, apple juice pressed from the estate orchards, deluxe breakfast bars, homegrown apples and plums. There were breads/scones/cakes suitable for diabetics and gluten free lovers, sausage rolls and scotch eggs.

Great vegetable soups for lunch served with generous amounts of bread, salads of every sort were served throughout the day along with sweet treats.

The Portlaoise members Mary,  Abby and Maria  put on an equally impressive display. While  knitting at the stand Mary got an order for a pair of booties to match a baby's jacket.  The couple were buying for their friend's baby who was been born at that moment,  Mary happily obliged and half an hour later booties were ready, not sure about baby!
Abby's jewellery made for a wonderful display, colourful, well priced with something for every pocket/purse.All purchases were attractively packaged. Jewellery has become a very popular  addition to many of our markets.
Maria  who does handmade chocolates and excellent hot chocolate was impossible to pass. The selection was impressive and the handmade chocolates were beautifully packaged in gold boxes.
Graiguecullen member Paula Sheridan brought her handcrafted, personalised candles.The candles designed for all occasions are presented with a pesonalised card in an elegant box.  

There was a huge media presence which worked well for us. On Sunday the wonderful news that  Country Markets had won a Bridgestone Award was the icing on the cake. I want to thank everyone who put so much work and many many hours into putting us on a new stage.

The Food Summer School 30/08/2011

The Taste Council in association with Bord Bia hosted the first national symposium on the Irish artisan and speciality food sector.

The topics covered were 
1.        The potential of the traditional family farm.
2.        Artisans and the education system.
3.        Food tourism, domestic sales and export opportunities.

An interesting and lively discussion took place across the day with contributions being made by many well known artisan producers, department representatives and Taste Council members.

It was an opportunity to do business with media and food journalists, and get our name out there amongst other artisan producers. I connected with journalists Oonagh O Mahoney, Domini Kemp, Aoife Carrigy and food blogger Wendy Kavanagh, and met several producers. One of these connections is very interested in doing business with one of our markets.

The closing address was by the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney and the evening ended with a feast of local food.

An Grianan Heritage and Harvest Fair 27/08/2011

Ann-Marie Dennison
The ICA partnered again with Love Irish Food to celebrate national heritage week with their Harvest and Heritage Fair at An Grianan, Termonfeckin, Co Louth. Heritage, craft and local food producer stalls displayed a wonderful variety and North County Wicklow branch were there to represent us.

I spoke with ICA president Ann-Marie Dennison about the associations reinvention and how the perception that they had ceased to exist has been turned on its head. Enthusiasm and interest from public bodies, decision makers, sponsors, potential partners and general interest has grown and ICA Bootcamp has attracted a big following amongst the younger people. We may have a great deal to learn from their experiences, especially with our 70th anniversary looming.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A Day in the Office 22/08/2011

Gina and Dee
Today Gina Miltiadou and Dee Laffan, publisher and new editor of Easyfood magazine met with Patricia and myself. Country Markets and Easyfood worked together in 2006 and a number of branch markets took part in the regional competitions ending up in a grand finale won by Dunfanaghy.

In return for our help in distributing entry forms for Easyfood’s Homecook Hero competition earlier in the year we will get some space in the November issue. We have also spoken about featuring a market a month thereafter, but this needs further work. We have lots of good news items to contribute to Ireland’s leading food magazine. Statistics show that readers of the magazine are people we would like to know, young families.

Visit to Stradbally 20/08/2011

I visited Stradbally today to meet the members who will represent Country Markets at Electric Picnic on 2nd, 3rd and 4th of September. This arts and music festival differs from other festivals in Ireland in that there is more emphasis on quality festival services like food and an emphasis on eco-friendly initiatives. These are important elements in Country Markets, and I am delighted we will be debuting the event this year.

Three branch markets are taking part, Stradbally, Portlaoise and Graiguecullen. We are being allotted four 5x5 tents and two 3x3 tents and will be in the food arena . Our brief from the event organisers has been to provide an educational and inter active presence with demonstrations and members to engage with the public. We will also be giving everyone a taste of what we sell in our markets around the country.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Management Commitee

Frances O'Brien Dungarven, Jackie Quinn NCW, Emer Duffy Ravensdale, Catherine Dunleavy Enniscorthy.
Anna Tolan Ballina, Catherine Ryan Cahir, Pamela Henry Vice Chairman Ravensdale, David Curran Treasurer Fethard, Josephine Lynch Portumna, Maire Ni Bhraoin Secretary Raheny, and Dan Loughrey Ramelton.
The organisations affairs are directed by the management committee which comprises of Chairman,Vice Chairman, Treasurer, Secretary and nine Regional Representatives who represent the branch markets, one of whom is the Vice Chairman. We no longer have an ICA representative or any general members but retain the option to co-opt two members if needed.

The committee meet at least five times a year in Head Office, our last meeting was on 08/08/2011. Due to area meetings we will not meet again until November but we keep in regular contact and further meetings are arranged as necessary.

I have mentioned in a previous post that we need some new Regional Representatives as there are four vacancies coming up. The Regional Representative is an important role in the organisation, creating a human link between the markets and the management committee.

The aims are to
1.        To improve relations with our markets.
2.        To anticipate and identify difficulties within markets.
3.        To provide continuous support.

This can be done by
1.        Regular communication by visits, phone, email.
2.        Maintaining good relations with the members.
3.        Keeping markets up to date with the latest on workshops, upcoming events and relevant news.

Effective communication is a two way street, we the Management Committee need members input.

A day in the office 15/08/2011

An invitation arrived from the Taste Council of Ireland. They are a voluntary group representing local, artisan, and speciality food producers. Established in 2003, amongst its members are Peter Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh who spoke at our AGM 2 years ago, Darina Allen from Ballymaloe Cookery School and Hugo Arnold the food journalist.

The Taste Council in association with Bord Bia will host the first National Food Symposium on the contribution of the artisan food sector to the Irish economy and its future, on 30/08/2011. One hundred and fifty delegates have been invited, from agricultural and food industries, government departments and mainstream media/food journalists. 

An invitation to such a prestigious event is an acknowledgement of our contribution to the artisan sector, I have therefore decided to attend.

Media Update 13/08/2011

Today TG4 visited our branch market in Ramelton, Donegal to film for one of their Summer series programmes An Samradh Linn. The programme features one county a week covering traditional music,rising talent,local information and food. This was the result of many weeks communications between one of the programme presenters Loretta Ni Ghabhainn, Patricia in the office, myself and Antoinette, one of the members of Ramelton market.

When researching food markets in Donegal, Loretta’s father, who lives in Galway told her about Country Markets. Not having heard anything about us before, Loretta was intrigued to discover the differences between ourselves and farmers markets, and so the team decided to visit last Saturday.

There were plenty of native Irish speaking producers and customers to entertain the crew, who stayed for the duration of the market. They thoroughly enjoyed their experience of Country Markets thanks to the hospitality and planning of the Ramelton members. Thank you all.

The programme will be shown on TG4 Tuesday 30/08/2011 at 8.30pm and will be repeated Sunday 04/09/2011 at 8.15pm.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Market in Donegal


I visited Carrick, about 12 miles west of Killybegs yesterday evening. Our newest market will open there in the Old School on Saturday and every fortnight thereafter.

Carrick is a beautiful place and a Country Market will fit right in, serving locals and visitors with a wide variety of home produce. They have baking, jams, eggs, honey, seasonal veg, cards, embroidery, bookmarks, jewellery, candles, slate clocks, weaving, rustic furniture and soaps; with dried and smoked fish to come.

The market will become yet another activity in the Old School which is already used by the community for bingo and a weekly Credit Union. A tearoom will be open on market mornings serving tea/coffee and a selection of the freshly baked produce.

I wish our new members well and will be sure to visit them again.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Management Meeting 8/08/2011

Our meeting took place yesterday at Country Markets Headquarters, Blackhall Place.
Everyone made the effort to be there and it is great to have the support of a committed group of people. Many of the team would have set out before 7am to get trains/buses which would get them to Dublin on time. While the meeting itself usually lasts 2-3hours, another lengthy return journey means it is evening before some people get home. The main topics for discussion were the upcoming Regional Meetings where we hope to recruit some new Reps, and new packaging and labelling options.

For many years the nominations for Regional Representative have been largely ignored , requiring the same reliable volunteers to continue the work. Three positions will soon be available, South East, East and South West. The position of Regional Representative is important within our organisation, establishing a human link between the branches and the management/office, so we can all be part of an effective communications network. This has not been easy to do, and at times not particularly cost effective when someone is visiting a market which is a considerable distance from them.

These visits are extremely important to ensure markets are complying with our regulations and guidelines. I hope that members will consider this and can assure you all that I have found my term as a Rep to be hugely beneficial. Many ideas are shared and my own market has grown as a result of trying out some of these ideas.

Pamela Henry did a considerable amount of research on packaging which will help us all, and she has been looking at some options regarding labelling. We will be looking for feedback on these issues after members have seen the possible options at Area Meetings.

A visit to Westport 7/08/2011

Dawn Gawley Churning
A recent family trip to Westport allowed me to call in to the Heritage Day in the town on Sunday. There I met Dawn Gawley, a member of Ballina Country Market, who was giving a demonstration on butter-making. Dawn and her husband Ivan share their skill and expertise with young and old at many of these events.While children are fascinated by cream going into the churn and butter coming out,the more seasoned of us haven't too many glowing reports about their churning days.

Kathy Ryan
Kathy Ryan from Castlebar Market was there with her extensive collection of handmade jewellery There was a good deal of interest in her designs. I first met Kathy when I visited Castlebar as a Regional Rep some years ago.

Representing Westport Country Market were Joan Collins, Kate O’ Connor/Kennedy and Sandra Jordan. It was good to meet some of the newer members of the market. Westport were featured on Nationwide some time ago.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

News Update 03/08/2011

A copy of the recent broadcast on RTE is being forwarded to me by Philip Bromwell and will be available for viewing here. The item ran on the 6 and 9 o'clock news, two minutes each time, four minutes of advertising on RTE at this time would cost at least  20 to 30k. I have been told by our PR consultant Breda Keena. 
I issued a press release earlier today on irishpressreleases.ie who offer free online press release services. It is used as a resource by editors, journalists, and freelance writers looking for the latest news. It is important to maintain a media profile, for all the right reasons of course. 
With the bank holiday I’m not in the office this week, but will keep in regular contact with Patricia, our partime office administrator. 
I spoke to Suzanne Byrne from Carrick in Donegal today, who is part of a group opening a new Country Market on August 13th. Our Regional Rep in Donegal Dan Loughrey spoke to the group about 6 weeks ago and they had lots of support from another of our markets - Leghowney. This is a good example of the cooperative spirit we should be showing. 
I will be travelling to Carrick next week. We will do a mini market so everyone is familiar with the procedures involved in the smooth running of a market and of the market committee. This is a good time to clarify any points and of course wish the producers well. Many of you will remember the excitement and enthusiasm involved in setting up. 
I’ve also been speaking to a man in Drogheda who is interested in setting up a market and contacted me as a direct result of the TV broadcast. He is now trying to gather up some producers and find a suitable location. 
The market visits are nearing an end for me for the moment. I will be getting ready for the Area Meetings and look forward to talking to as many of you as possible there. 

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Media Update 31/07/2011

After the RTE filming of Granard Country Market on Friday morning we were looking forward to seeing it on Six One news. I expect people were disappointed when it was not featured, but things happen fast in the world of news and schedules get changed. There are many of these little features used to fill slots, so keep watching.

Country Markets was in the Irish Times magazine on Saturday 30/07/2011. Marie-Claire Digby featured us in the Webwatch section of her Food File column and gave a very positive report.

Three of our Wicklow branches, Baltinglass, Arklow and North Wicklow bought 200 euros ads in an advertising feature article in The Wicklow Times 26/07/2011. Our auditors Cooney Parle who are from Wicklow bought another 200 euro ad. I spoke to some members and they were very pleased with the publicity. The papers interest was sparked by our press release which all markets sent to their local papers.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Arklow Visit 30/07/2011

Annie, Gertie and Vicky
Today I visited Arklow Country Market in Co Wicklow with the Regional Rep Pamela Henry. It is held  in the Pigeon Club every Saturday morning. I arrived into the large, bright, spacious hall shortly after 10.30am and was warmly welcomed by Gertie, Vicky and their latest member Annie.

My eye was immediatly drawn to a beautiful collection of vintage style cake stands. This is some of Annie’s work and is a very novel means of using up those decorative single plates and saucers we all have. Annie also collects Arklow pottery.

The company was established in the town in 1934 producing decorative earthenware goods and general table crockery. There is an Arklow Pottery cup and saucer with tiger stripes designed around 1950,in the National Museum of Ireland. The company ceased production in 1999.

Cups and saucers are turned into attractive candle decorations by filling with wax and wick. These can be returned and refilled for customers at a modest fee.

Customers and tourists called in to pick up Vicky’s lovely brown bread, Gerties fruit scones and to choose from a wide selection of jams. The market has a range of cakes, crafts, vegetables and eggs.

We enjoyed tea, scones, and a good chat with the members, they are looking forward  to their future and I wish them well.

Friday, 29 July 2011

RTE visit Granard Country Markets 29/07/2011

Philip Bromwell of RTE talking to a customer
Yesterday afternoon Philip Bromwell from RTE confirmed that he would do a report on Granard Country Market this morning for the Six One News.

Sandra Bogan who is one of our newer members kindly offered to allow some filming to take place in her garden. We wanted to let people see where some of the wonderful produce available in our markets comes from. So at 7.30 am the camera began to roll as Sandra went about gathering her prize winning vegetables, flowers and fruit.

Eoin, Sandra’s 7 year old son collected freshly laid eggs for the market. It was a beautiful morning here and the garden bowled Philip over, I’m sure many more people will be very envious of what the talented trio, Sandra, Sean and Eoin have achieved.

Filming continued at the market. Our local community action group had given a hand to tidy things up earlier in the week so the Market House was looking good.

Philips laid back demeanour allowed people to relax and enjoy the occasion. Our customers were delighted to have such positive coverage of Granard, and as always came to support us.

Philip chatted with Ann O’Hara who is one of the founding members of the market, another few words with myself and then on to some of our customers. Filming complete, we all enjoyed a cup of tea before our reporter headed back to Dublin.

We had a great market and look forward to seeing the report on the Six One News. Philip has promised a copy of the broadcast which we can add to the website and which will also be available here. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The RDS National Crafts Competition 2011 27/07/2011

 Agnieszka Kilbride and myself

Today Agnieszka Kilbride of the Raheny branch and myself represented Country Markets Ltd at the prize giving ceremony of the 2011 RDS National Crafts Competition in the Concert Hall, Ballsbridge. Agnieszka was our 2011 Rosebowl Competition winner for her beautiful crosss stitch which she learned from her Irish mother-in-law.
The competition which was founded in 1968 aims to promote craft in Ireland. and is a wonderful opportunity for craftspeople to have their work appraised and judged by an independent panel of practitioners. To broaden exposure for the prizewinners the RDS organises a travelling exhibition and this year Mullingar and Sligo are just two of the chosen venues.
For anyone interested in entering the competition for 2012 applications are taken early next year. Categories include Embroidery, Felting, Glass, Furniture, and Ceramics. We have sponsered a medal for this competition for many years and I would love to see some of our talent in the exhibition.

This year Patricia Lamb from Cork was awarded the Country Markets Ltd medal for 2nd prize in the Lace Category. Patricia is a member of the Traditional Lacemakers of Ireland and 3 years ago she also won our medal. The parasol she tells me took a couple of hours every day for 2 years and really is spectacular.

The presentations were made by the Minister for Arts,Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Jimmy Deenihan.

For those who would like to see this exhibition it will be open to the public, free of charge in the RDS Concert Hall, on July 28th and 29th. It will continue during the Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show from August 3rd to 7th although an entry fee applies on these days.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A day in the office

I arrived in the office this morning at 9.15am and sorted through the post.

Another 5 new membership applications in, so we continue to grow in both numbers and strength. People are our greatest resource and new members will not only bring new customers but new ideas which can help us to adapt and thrive in the future. It can be too easy to imagine we are doing the best we can and put a drop in sales down to the recession, but we must adapt to the changes in society.

Ask customers what they want, think about changing the day your market runs, if that’s what people want. Just because its been so for 25 years may not be a good reason to continue, particularly if new customers are not coming through the door.

I spoke with Gina Miltiadou, publisher of Easy Food magazine to see what feedback there has been from the Home Cook Hero Competition. It seems the online response has proved more successful than the offline paper version, to date only 200 forms have been received. The competition will continue until the end of August. I have invited both Gina and the new Editor of the magazine Dee Laffan to the office in mid August to see how we might work together.

The interview went ahead as planned with Northern Sound Radio and will be broadcast tomorrow night.

On Wednesday 27/07/2011 I will attend the 2011 Craft Awards in the RDS where Jimmy Deenihan Minister of Arts. Heritage and the Gaeltacht will perform the presentations, among which will be the medal Country Markets sponsor each year.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Longford Country Fair and Agricultural Show


Country Markets were represented at the Annual Show yesterday by the Granard branch. Conditions were perfect for the event, and turnout was excellent.

I met Marian Condron one of the founding members of Stradbally Country Market who was there as judge in the Equine section.

Marian’s mother Kathleen Clynch was a founding member of the Granard branch (1979) and continued to produce there until recent years. Sadly she passed away September 2010 but Country Markets live on in her family as two of her daughters continue the tradition they grew up with in Longford. In fact Marian’s sister produces under her late mothers number.

Marian Condron, Chairman Stradbally Country Market

Media Contacts Update


As a result of the press release being sent out yesterday I have had both Longford’s Northern Sound Newsroom and Philip Bromwell from RTE contact me.

Shannonside Northern Sound covers Longford, Roscommon, South Leitrim, Cavan, and Monaghan. I will be interviewed by Paul Quinn on The Bottom Line, a programme dealing with industry and business in the region. The programme will be on air Tuesday 26/07/2011 from 8pm.

Philip Bromwell of RTE wants to come to Granard on Friday 22/07/2011 to film at the market for that evenings Six One News. He would like to do a story on local markets as the Superquinn story unfolds.

I got an email today from Philip Bromwell to say something else has come up and the filming will not be going ahead on Friday. Maybe next week.

I have been asked to send on some images to accompany an article by the Irish Times food writer Marie Claire Digby and have done so, she will pick the images she wants to use.

Another feature is awaiting publication following an interview with Biddy White-Lennon in mid June, for the Farmers Journal. A photographer will be in touch as shots will be needed from various markets.

A day in the office 18/07/2011

A press release is being issued to the media today on behalf of all our markets.

It focuses on the positive note that Country Markets are experiencing a resurgence of interest in the organisation. In the month of June alone 21 new members joined existing markets and there were 6 enquiries about setting up new markets. Check out the press release on irishpressreleases.ie

Communications continue with the TG4’s researcher about a branch market being featured on their Summer programme An Samradh Linn. They have decided on Donegal and so we must ensure both Irish speaking producers and customers are available. This has not being confirmed but I believe we should be well prepared for such an event. We need to inform the public as to who we are and what we do.

Everyone should have a copy of the feature article which was sent out on 15/06/2011 to each market chairman and familiarise themselves with the content, so the key messages we send to the public become familiar.

An agenda for the next commitee meeting was drawn up and sent out.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Fiver Friday

July 1st was Fiver Friday, an RTE Radio 1 Liveline campaign encouraging people to spend an extra 5 euro and give a much needed boost to local business and community. Here in Granard Country Market, Co Longford, we gave away an extra euro worth of goods for every 5 euro spent. As they paid their bill this morning it was a pleasant surprise for some to discover they could pick ‘a free item’ from the basket. Amongst the items to choose from were beautiful fresh heads of cabbage, scones. soda bread quarters, fresh cut flowers, handmade cards, boxty and potato bread.

It was a great success, brought attention to our market through the local paper as we advertised our event, brought new customers and was a great boost to our sales.

A day in the Office 11th July 2011

Pamela Henry Regional Rep from Ravensdale Market in Louth is coming up to discuss the presentation and labelling issue. Over the last few weeks talking to various members there is a definite desire to raise the standard of presentation. This could really change the way the public rate us and make our produce an attractive option as food gifts.

Currently the sticky label which accomodates all information , price, producer number, logo, HQ address, product description and possibly the ingredients does not convey the image of handmade, quality, special, local that suggest a special gift. Emer Duffy our previous Chairman suggested a ribbon with our name and logo. The sample ribbon was ordered and is here todayAlready it’s possible to visualise the impact this small change could make. Pamela will also research a larger label, and get some costings.

Final details were agreed on the agenda for area meetings, based on suggestions proposed by branch markets.

Sligo Visit July 2011

Beltra’s Birthday Bash
I’ve been honoured by an invitation to attend the 1st birthday of Beltra Country Market in Co Sligo today. This time last year Emer Duffy and myself met with a group of very determined and focussed people who had done a lot of research on setting up a local community market. Since then they have gone from strength to strength and the market has become a weekly fixture for many customers. Enthusiasm, creativity, an ever increasing variety of both produce and producers along with continuous hard work and customer care have resulted in a wonderful success story.

I arrived on Saturday morning to a buzzing market, all hands on deck. A childrens jewellery workshop was in full swing on the stage of this beautiful red galvanized hall. A group of local musicians played outside, a puppeteer entertained young and old and the crepe maker was kept busy. I spied a birthday cake at the other end of the hall, and was delighted to get a chance to meet the man who made this magnificent creation.

Master Baker Stuart

The market also ran a raffle to raise funds for repairs to the hall. The prize was a very generous hamper which members contributed to.

Anna Tolan, Regional Rep with the Hamper

Ballinacarrow Market 09/07/2011
I just made it to Ballinacarrow, our newest market as they were finishing up. It has been running since mid May and is 14 miles from Beltra. The approach signs are excellent, the market is held in the renovated Community Centre and things are going really well. There were still some customers in the coffee corner enjoying the relaxed atmosphere which is a good sign, they don’t feel pressured to leave just because things are coming to an end.

Ashling the Market Chairman is very happy with the way things are going and is looking forward to building up the customer base. There’s good variety and the producers are working hard to keep that up in both the food and craft sections. The market have already had success attending some outdoor events in the local area which is a great way to advertise within the community. I wish them well and for my next visit will be sure to get there in lots of time to talk to everybody and get some photos. Be sure to visit Ballinacarrow and support our newest market. Saturdays from 10am. 

A day in the Office 4th July 2011

I’ve spent today in the office. Our National Treasurer David Curran has come up from Tipperary to deal with the half year levies which have been coming in steadily. David is very pleased with his success at Clonmel Show the previous day, winning the Marlfield Cup for the most points gained in the vegetable classes.

We got great news from Stradbally market in Laois, their application to attend Electric Picnic has been accepted. This is great news for all of us, it will put Country Markets on the festival map and reach a whole new audience. Well done, we will do what we can to support you.

The shopping bags are going very well, people are happy with the quality, the logo is sharp and distinctive and the project seems to have been well worth while.

A day in the Office, June 29th 2011

Today 29th June I’m off to Dublin for my weekly stint in the office. This is an opportunity to catch up with the Reps by phone, deal with pending queries, letters and planning the coming weeks.

The day starts at 6.30am, I drive 16 miles to get the bus (17.50 euro return fare) which will leave me on O’Connell Street shortly after 9am, then it’s a 20 minute walk to Blackhall Place or get the Luas to Smithfield and walk the 10mins to the office.
Country Markets HQ

I try and go when Patricia is in as we both deal daily with emails from markets, prospective new members, people looking to set up new markets as well as the ongoing business of Country Markets Ltd.
Patricia our Administrator

Today we’re sending out some details to the Reps for consideration.

1 A draft reply to one of our markets who expressed frustration at a number of issues.

2 Samples of some professional photography we undertook to get done as a resource for both the office and the markets. In the event of needing some shots to submit with an article they will be available and the markets may use the resource for their own PR.

3 A copy of a press release which is going to the media in mid July highlighting the success of the organisation and the growing number of enquiries.

We got some final details on the Area Meetings which have been organised between the Reps and market members.

I arrive home about 7.30pm