When some foodies come up with an idea to be part of a Collaboration Network to try and bring more awareness and tourism to our area - needless to say I jumped at the chance to sit on the board with other like minded people.
We have been working on this network now for a few months, and each time we meet we are getting closer to actually seeing this new venture come to life!
On Tuesday 17th April we all set sail to meet Taste Leitrim and stay in The Landmark Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon for the night. This is a stunning hotel, and the interior is absolutely beautiful. I personally think their website doesn't do it justice! That evening we had a beautiful dinner in the restaurant with Artie Clifford Blas Awards, Birgetta Curtin Burren Smokehouse, and Chef Sham from Leitrim. After dinner we all had a panel discussion in relation to the issues of becoming a collaboration network, how to get our food network off the ground, how the local chefs were inspired about using local products from the area, and the benefit of awards.
The next morning we set off to Drumshanbo, a small little place but they have exceeded themselves with only 800 people living there, but tourism now the whole year around which not only benefits each of the shops, restaurants and producers, but also the locals can have jobs in their own area without travelling for miles!
Our first speaker was Pascal, from Jinnys Breads. Pascal was so inspiring, talking about the challenges that he and his wife had when they first started their business, and how they have overcome them to now selling their breads into hotels, and local shops. Each business has a different aspect to how they want to grow and they are now investing heavily in their cottages, McGuires Cottages with a new tearoom in the coming year.
Our second speaker was Sean McGlone who is a tenant at the Food Hub now making Feel Good Organic Kefir. Something that I was really interested in as it a health product which means you don't need to pop pills like a lot of people do instead of trying to resolve their health issues with food! I am a strong believer in some foods have so much to give rather than using medication (some of the time if it helps). Sean is at a different level and is keen to expand and keen for large volumes.
Orla Casey, from the Food hub - a lady who we should all get advice and guidance for our business. Orla is a wealth of information on funding and seeking funding from all levels. She has secured a large amount of money to create the Food Hub - where new producers can lease and set up their business.
Leona and Orla Casey.
The Food Hub itself has a few long standing producers that have taken a space to grow each of their own business.
Gunpowder Irish Gin, a very interesting place to visit - the machinery alone just to look at, is wonderful. Never mind what the product actually tastes like! They are also launching a new vodka in the coming months, along with a whiskey.
Carrig Brewing Company, I am not into brewing at all but always wanted to hear how beers, ales etc were brewed, so it definitely is a skill, and those boys clearly know what they are doing!
Thanks to all the producers, and speakers who took time out of their busy schedule to speak with us all. You certainly have left us all with lots of food for thought!