In October 2011 I had a little germ of an idea. I could see what food producers in other places were doing to promote themselves as groups and I could see how County Wexford had more than its fair share of really good food producers and I wondered why there was no network here for them to work together. Neil Murphy, sales and marketing manager at Wexford Creamery, saw the potential straight away and joined me to establish the Wexford Food Producers Network.
So much has happened since then – we have developed a strong brand, with help from Wexford County Council, which is being used by members, we have a good website, with help from Wexford County Enterprise Board, that includes a directory of food producers in Wexford. We have taken on an amazing 31 members in the last 11 months and we have joined together as a group for several events.
We were approached by RTE TV production company Animo via Wexford Chamber (Hi Madeleine!) to take part in the Local Heroes programme with Joe Duffy. We were delighted that they recognised the vision that we had for the group and the determination and enthusiasm we had to make it succeed.
The whole group really pulled together for the filming of this programme, which culminated in an unforgettable event – The Feast of Wexford – on the quay of Wexford Town on 20th April where buyers from the biggest and most respected retailers, food writers and local food supporters came to meet and do business with the members of the Wexford Food Family. This was followed by a food fair open to the general public where it’s estimated an astonishing 7,000 made the effort to come to our marquee on that beautiful, sunny day to meet the producers, sample and buy their wares.
Four of the best chefs in County Wexford gave so much of their time, energy and skills to design and bring to life a menu that showcased the best of Wexford foods for the trade visitors to sample. Thank you again to Phelim Byrne, Eugene O’Callaghan, Linda Larkin and Tony Carty.
Wexford County Council, Wexford Town Council, Wexford County Enterprise Board, Wexford Local Development and Wexford Creamery sponsored the event – it could not have happened without their help.
I am still blown away by the goodwill and support we got during the process of planning an running this event.
The programme did a great job of showing Wexford in its best light – the county is bathed in sunshine at all times, the people are genuine, positive and full of can do attitude.
Now, the TV cameras are gone and the excited talk about the programme is fading a bit. We still have a huge opportunity to galvanise the goodwill we experienced and to use it to grow the food industry in County Wexford through supporting our Family Members and doing everything we can to promote their wonderful products to the people of our county, in the South East, all over Ireland and all over the world. Sure, why not?
Right now, we are putting together a business plan that will ensure the sustainability of the Wexford Food Family and ensure that we can achieve our most ambitious goals in the not too distant future.
We hope that what we are doing is blazing a trail for all of the fabulous food producers across Ireland – we are the Model County after all
Loch Gorman abú!