THE FOUNDER of the Grow It Yourself (GIY) network, Michael Kelly, has urged consumers to grow their own food and support local producers in order to transform the food chain and “bring some common sense” back into our relationship with what we eat.
He told 300 guests who gathered for the sumptuous, sell-out, Tipperary Food Producers’ Long Table Dinner at Rockwell College on Wednesday last that it is now time for us all to step up to the plate and change our eating habits for good.
We must ask ourselves why we are importing 5 billion worth of food every year when we could be supporting a viable local food economy at home, he said.
GIY is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to make home-grown food the norm by inspiring individuals and communities to grow their own food and giving them the skills they need to grow successfully.
Mr Kelly said when we go to our local supermarkets the chances are that we see imports of highly-processed, unseasonal produce on the shelves. Broccoli from Kenya, mange tout from Senegal, carrots from Guatemala and so on.
“The way the food chain currently operates has implications for our health, community, the environment, the economy and Irish jobs. So, what’s the solution? Write an angry letter? Lobby a politician? No we at GIY believe that we need to grow more of our own food and support our local producers more.” Mr Kelly added. Events like the Long Table dinner reinforces how a local food network can be a viable and immensely more satisfying alternative “to the lunacy of the modern food chain, which relies on imports of processed, unseasonal food. “
Mr Kelly added: “The fact that the entire feast at this Long Table Dinner comes from Co Tipperary emphasises that if supported, local food producers can literally step up to the plate. This is not about one or two parts of the meal being local, but the entire meal – local and seasonal fruit, vegetables, meat and condiments.”
“The Tipperary Food Producers model works. It encourages local food producers to come together to help themselves, and local people supporting them benefiting at the same time from the best of local, seasonal produce. There’s no reason why this incredibly successful template couldn’t be replicated around Ireland,” Mr Kelly said.
Among those gathered for the Long Table dinner were the region’s producers, their families and lovers of good food. All were treated to canapés and drinks on arrival, followed by an amazing banquet in the Rockwell College main hall which was bursting with flavour, colour and aroma.
The sumptuous menu included locally produced meats, breads, vegetables, cheese, cakes, condiments and fruit – the ultimate culinary tour of Tipperary.
Producers represented at the dinner were Cashel Blue Cheese, Crossogue Preserves, Crowe Farm Meats, Cooleeney Cheese, Cloughjordan house, Baylough Cheese, Boulaban Farm, Brownes, Fine Foods Cashel, Hickeys Bakery, Mags Home Baking, Tipperary Kitchen, Inch House, James Whelan Butchers, Oakpark Foods, Ponaire Irish Handcrafted Coffee, Red Nose Wine, Russell Catering, Seymour Organic Farm, The Apple Farm, The Cookie Jar, The Scullery, O’Donnell’s crisps and The Auld Mill Bakery.
The pre-dinner canapés consisted of Cashel Fine Foods black pudding and apple filo parcel with red onion chutney and Gortnamona goats cheese and chargrilled courgette bruchetta with red pepper relish.
The starter was thyme and garlic baked Tipperary mushroom and smoked bacon salad with a selection of Tipperary breads. Guests cleansed their pallets with Boulabán Farm Tipperary apple and calvados sorbet with lemon balm, before tucking into a main course which consisted of a range of the choicest meats that Tipperary has to offer.
They included dry-aged seared Tipperary Angus Beef Tournedo from James Whelan Butchers, Crowes Farm free-range slow roasted pork belly served with Inch House black pudding and apple farm jelly, Seymour’s organic lamb cutlets and Una O’Dwyers’ gourmet smoked bacon and cheese sausage en Croute.
This was served with local new season potato and leek gratin, local steamed melange of summer vegetables and a salad of organic salad leaves and herbs selected by Sarah Baker from Cloughjordan House.
Desert was a mouth-watering Tipperary Berry Tiramisu and those who had room left tucked into a Tipperary cheese board including Cashel Blue, Cooleeney, and Baylough smoked cheddar.
The meal was washed down with wines from the iconic Mas de Daumas Gassac vineyard in the South of France and imported by Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine in Clonmel. Roman Guibert is a past pupil of Rockwell College.
Chairman of the Tipperary Food Producers Network, Pat Whelan, said the meal showcased what makes the region special and sets it apart.
“The quality, the unmistakable taste and freshness of all the local produce served here tonight augers exceptionally well for our Network. But we need to spread the word. It is more important than ever that we support our local producers and local jobs. We are proud to have 30 producers involved in total employing 220 people directly and with a cumulative turnover in the region of €30m.”
Mr Whelan thanked Rockwell College for the superb venue for the meal. “What better setting for a fine, local, artisan meal than in this historical building which is synonymous with Tipperary for generations, ” he commented.