Local produce cooks up treat

LOCAL produce was the only game in town last evening as up to 500 food enthusiasts joined the Tipperary Food Producers at their first Christmas Cookery Extravaganza in Clonmel.

An avenue of the Tastes of Tipperary was among the features of the event which took place in association with Bord Bia, with everything served coming from the Tipperary area.

Included in the programme was a cookery demonstration by Bord Bia chef Sheila Kelly along with Sarah Baker of Cloughjordan Cookery School and Pat Whelan from the award-winning James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel.

The aim of the event was to showcase the best artisan food from throughout Co Tipperary, according to Food Producers Network chairman Pat Whelan.

“It is really heartening to see the huge amount of people here this evening, all supporting local produce, local producers and local jobs,” he said.

A live Twitter panel of journalists, food writers and students from the network’s Food Connect programme provided online discussion, while a team from RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground filmed the activities

The television programme is doing an item on the Food Connect programme which was recently launched by the Tipperary Food Producers Network along with 11 secondary schools across the county.

The project matches the participating schools with 11 local food producers and sends Transition Year students to work on a food production project, gaining experience in all aspects of the business, from developing the produce to sales to marketing resulting in a broader knowledge of local food production and the business sector.

“So far the students on the Food Connect programme have been hugely enthusiastic and are learning the businesses from the ground up,” Mr Whelan said.

During the programme, four students represent their group and each spend a week in the producer’s premises. They report their daily progress on a blog which is seen by all other students in their own class and also the students from the other 10 schools, as well as using Facebook and Twitter to communicate about their partner producer.

The 11 projects will conclude next month with a presentation by each class to a panel of judges about their findings and successes. In early 2011, two perpetual trophies, one for north Tipperary and one for south Tipperary, will be presented to the schools where outstanding effort is recognised.

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