The all-island conference of workshops for the food community — producers, suppliers, stakeholders and consumers — is part of a four-day food festival hosted by Slow Food Ireland (part of Slow Food International) in association with Bord Bia.
The artisan food study tours will take place on Saturday, September 6, when 10 buses will bring up to 500 participants to visit leading food producers in Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Carlow.
Many of these food producers have received LEADER funding from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
Each trip will include a picnic of local produce prepared by a renowned chef in each county and will take place on the banks of the rivers Barrow, Nore, Suir, Blackwater and Slaney, the historic trade routes for the food industry for more than 3,000 years.
Announcing funding of €23,000 for Comhar LEADER na hÉireann to run the food trails, Mr Ó Cuív said the purpose of the tours was to demonstrate best practice, showcase innovative ideas, explore local food history and promote local artisan food producers.
“Ireland has a worldwide reputation for quality produce and we need to foster this to realise our potential as an attractive food tourism destination,” said Mr Ó Cuív.
He said his department would continue to support small food production in Ireland under the new Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.
This would provide funding of €425 million — €150m was available for 2000-2006 — and, with leveraged investment, up to €1.5 billion for development.