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

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

Cork Visit June 2011


I arrived at Midleton Market on Friday morning 24th June. It’s held in the Old School, Church Lane off the Main Street, with a carpark outside. Eileen was busy at the cash desk with early morning shoppers. Lots of fresh veg, fresh chickens, centre stage a great variety of baking, yoghurt, goats cheese, preserves and relishes. Treated to a cup of tea and scone and had a good chat with everyone.

They are delighted with their latest member, 13 years old producing under her mothers name and guidance. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet her as she was at school. Country Markets can nurture our young people in local enterprise and provide them with a non competitive enviornment to learn the skills they will need in the future.

Here are the members I met on the day.

I headed on to Skibbereen in torrential rain to meet up with more Country Market members. Abbeystrewry Hall is the venue and they have a big carpark just outside. The hall is big, bright and on the day Betty’s colourful bedding plants really stood out. I got lots of top quality plants, and having been in that business know just how much time it takes to produce that quality.

Left some books and bags with Karen and Edith as they didn't get to AGM. Here we also have a young member, this time a twelve year old who grows strawberry plants while his father Morris does the salads and veg. We had a short meeting after the market as we don’t get together very often. We really need a Rep in the Cork area and hope that someone will help us out. It's important to be connected and informed on all that’s happening in the organisation.
Saturday morning, it’s still raining when I call to Bandon Country Market on Weir Street. George is on the till, a big smile and everyones happy to see me. This market runs on both Friday and Saturday. It’s one of our bigger markets with over 30 members.
Some of you might be interested in this a large banner made of strong webbing runs the entire length of the window (15 feet at least). Each pane features either some market produce or our logo, very effective, it cost E120 + VAT. The screen printing was done locally and because it was a trial they got a second one thrown in.
The chilled area was very well done. Bread boards as used in commercial bread deliveries, are filled with ice packs and oil cloth on top. Loads of veg; fruit and flowers; baking; eggs; jewellery and knitted crafts.
Before I left Bandon I visited the Farmers Market. Twelve or fourteen traders taking shelter under their canopies as it was drizzling at this stage. There was veg, cut flowers,breads and the luxury cake stall. There were very few punters and I thought back to my lovely cup of tea and buns indoors at Bandon Country Markets watching the customers come and go.