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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklodge’

Last year  I was lucky enough to attend the Taste Council’s first Summer School.

A special effort was made here at Oldfarm, with the organisation of animals, so that we could both attend this year’s school at Brooklodge.  The theme was ‘The Future is Food signing up to the Food Story’.

I am not sure how many attended on Thursday.  I would guess less than last year.  However, it was heartening to see a greater number of chefs in attendance.  And I think I can say, without a doubt, that County Tipperary was the best representated county there – with at least a dozen food producers along!

The line up of speakers was impressive.

The agenda included a topic dear to our hearts – Label Protection for the Artisan Food Producer.

The session was chaired by John McKenna of Bridgestone Guides.  There were some intriguing things revealed during the initial talk by Raymound O’Rourke.  For instance 30% of consumers think the label ‘natural’ means organic!

But, in truth, the talk skirted around a lot of issues!

It was actually left for a member of the audience (@pigoftheday) to raise the question of gmo’s.  He asked the panel where they stood on the matter, and in particular, asked the representative of Teagasc, to explain how planting gm potatoes could sit well with an image of Ireland as a ‘clean, green island’?  The answer, it you could even call the reply an answer, was so non-committal it was unbelievable.

John McKenna asked the audience for a show of hands on who would like to see products labelled as containing gm.  There were some who didn’t raise their hands, but again I would guess that about 90% of the audience wanted to see gm labelling.

The second morning session was on label protection for the artisan fishing fleet.  This was an informative session.

After a break for a delicious lunch sitting outside in the orchard, it was time to head back for the World Cafe Debate.

This was an excellent idea.  It gave all of us who attended an opportunity to voice our opinions.  We broke into roundtable discussion groups chaired by members of the Taste Council.  Again our time was spent 50/50 on discussions about labelling in the food and fish industries.

At our table the labelling terminology chosen for discussion were:

Local so what is local, it is 10/15 mile radius?  Is it nationwide?  If a jam is made with local fruit and imported sugar – is that local?

GMO’sthe overall consensus was that gm should not be allowed into the country, and anything imported containing gm product should be labelled accordingly.

Irish fish, Irish watersthis would bring about a seasonality and sustainability to the fish industry, as well as improve the economy.

Return to quayside buyingimprove the buying from source image, the fisherman would be a knowledge centre improving education.  A recent survey by Bord Bia asked people to name 10 fish…. most could only name 2 – salmon and cod!

Naturalthis was perhaps the most revealing.  Everyone at our table felt this word should be removed from all packaging as it has been so abused it means absolutely nothing and is just confusing the consumer.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay for the final session, but from following the tweet feed I believe the subject of GM was once again raised.  This time by Peter Ward of Country Choice made valid point questioning compatibility of Teagasc non commercial GMO experiment and Bord Bia’s Origin Green campaign.

My summary of the day:

*  It is a great networking opportunity to meet fellow food producers and  chefs.

*  It is so good to spend the day with people who are passionate about food.

*  It was interesting that most people felt the term ‘natural’ should be removed from food labelling as it is so over abused and means absolutely nothing.

*  I liked the World Cafe aspect as it gave participants a chance to contribute.  Keep that up guys for next year.

*  Last year raw milk was the emotive topic, this year it was gm potatoes and labelling it would be good if agents from the likes of Teagasc, etc. were willing to engage on the emotive issues.  Surely, they didn’t think the day would go by without gm being raised?

*  It would have been nice to see more food writers/bloggers along to meet with producers and learn of the challenges 2012 has thrown their way.

And on a final note, it was amazing to learn the following day that Teagasc had gone ahead and planted the gm potatoes on Monday last…. did the representative at the session on Thursday know this?  If not, why not?

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When I received my invitation in mid-August to The Food Summer School being hosted by the Taste Council and Bord Bia – I, of course, was delighted, and presumed it was because we produce free-range pork!  I was wrong, which I only discovered on arrival at The Brooklodge Hotel on Tuesday last!  It was because I write this blog!

A nice compliment! 🙂

The drive to Wicklow from here took about 2 hours across all sorts of by ways and highways.  It does test my geographical knowledge when passing through villages… trying to remember school geography and which county I am in!  Bless Mrs. Sat Nav but she can be a nuisance at times!  A couple of noteworthy events on the drive –

I never knew there was a village in Ireland called Arles – which of course, triggered thoughts of Vincent Van Gogh!  However, local knowledge tells me that in Ireland it is pronounced Aar Less!

The colours of the Wicklow mountains were amazing – all purples and pinks.  I had big plans to stop on the way home to take photos, but of course, it was too late when I was leaving to do that!  Sorry!

There was a big turnout for the Summer School (I think I read somewhere that there were 180 people).  I would have guessed more!

The day was divided into three individual workshops, each having a chair and panel discussing the relevant topic:

  1. Realising the Potential of the Traditional Irish Farm
  2. The Artisan and the Education System
  3. The Artisan and Brand Ireland

Without going into the total detail, there were some highlights and lowlights for me.

The Highs

It was lovely to meet some old friends and make new friends!  I had a lovely catch up over lunch with Aoife of The Daily Spud… while we enjoyed a giggle about food photography!

pulled pork bap

Other bloggers who were there – Wendy of My Chef at Home, Keith of Bia Beag, Ollie of Oliver Moore’s Blogspot.  There were so many other people that I got to meet and chat with too, but it would be completely boring if I was to list them all!  I always find at events like this, it is so difficult to chat to everyone.  I’d rather just spend some good time with a few people, rather than race about having only half conversations!  So apologies to those I didn’t get to chat with!

Enjoying a moment at the Food Summer SchoolWendy White Kavanagh, My Chef at Home, Helen Gee, G’s Gourmet Jams and Oonagh O’Mahony, Irish Farmers Monthly enjoying a moment.

Attendees at summer school

The discussions at the workshops were enjoyable…. some interesting facts and truths were learned.

  • So many farms are operating at a loss, and are only surviving because of subsidies!
  • I thought it was wonderful that Ruth Hegarty from Eurotoques openly stated that their members need to get to grips with ‘children’s menus’ and agreed they were a disgrace!
  • There were two quotes of the day.  Darina Allen’s “the future is our past, if we just recognised it!” and from David at Glebe Brethan…”you can call me what you like, but basically I am a farmer who is just carrying on doing what my grandparents before me did!”

The Lows

  • There seemed to have been mainly cheese and fish producers in attendance!  Where were the rest of the producers?
  • Sheila from Sligo bravely brought up the subject of allowing GMO’s into the country – and I felt the panel completely skirted around giving an answer!
  • It would have been good if there had been a little bit more open discussion involving the ‘audience’.

And the major low on a personal level, was that I wasn’t able to stay on for the dinner – from the photos I’ve seen it looked amazing!

a selection of wicklow produce

I do hope this becomes an annual event, it is a good way to share knowledge.

Here’s a link to the video link.

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