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.