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.