The importance of supporting small, artisan food producers was highlighted by the Tipperary Food Producers Network which yesterday appealed to consumers to shop and buy local.
The food network — which directly employs 220 people in Co Tipperary and has an annual turnover of over €24 million — made its appeal to buy local at the announcement of details of its annual Long Table Dinner, which will showcase their products and highlight the importance of the food industry to the local economy.
Organisers expect 300 food lovers to gather for their event at Rockwell College outside Cashel on August 17. Special guest will be Michael Kelly, founder of the food organisation, Grow it Yourself.
Network founder and award-winning butcher Pat Whelan said it has never been more important to support local producers.
“We urge consumers to visit their local baker, butcher, farm shops, cheesemonger, retailers and farmers markets all who provide top quality food at reasonable prices.”
The epicurean gala dinner has evolved in the last three years into a lavish, highly-organised feast with rich and organic origins.
According to Mr Whelan, while the venue changes annually and the demand for tickets grows, the core values remain constant: to act as a showcase for Tipperary food with excellence at the core of everything. The entire meal is created from local produce, with the producers sitting down and enjoying the feast.
“In 2007, a group of local food producers came together to dine at a long table under the abundant fruit trees in the orchards of the Apple Farm in Cahir, one late summer’s evening. We were reviving an old Irish tradition and the entire meal was created using only local ingredients and produce.”
The Tipperary Food Producers includes producers of meat, beverages and bread, soup, sweets, pastry, catering, dairy, cheese, farm shops, preserves and condiments, jams, fruit and vegetables.
Its objective is to represent, promote and showcase the best of Tipperary Food and members hope to develop the network into a regional brand that will highlight what Tipperary Food has to offer.