Eat Local – A Meeting of Minds in Tullow
Where does your food come from? This simple question has complex and difficult answers. The topic was addressed by a gathering of local producers and professionals, sponsored by the County Carlow Environmental Network (CCEN).
Molly Aylesbury, Chairperson of CCEN, remarked that all views must be heard to have a meaningful and collaborative conversation. Her passion was matched by the panellists’ actions to care for the land, improve biodiversity and reduce our environmental footprint.
Tom Butler, a local organic grower for over 20 years, opened with a slide showing how only 10 global food companies control around 80% of food in our supermarkets. He discussed a Feast upon the Earth, an installation commissioned by the Irish Museum of Modern Art for the Earth Rising festival which explores existence and our relationship with Earth. This includes an unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels for our food. We must choose the future together.
Jack Browne, engineer by training, has converted his farm to organic and agro-forestry.
Prompted by the high cost of fertilizers and the desire to improve biodiversity, he has
planted native woodland and fruit trees where sheep continue to graze.
Organic strawberry grower Niall Whelan and educator Paula Pender spoke about the
challenges of growing and selling food. A bad season that ruined a crop, with the financial
implications, caused Niall to diverisfy his farm. During her time in America, Paula created a
box scheme for 20 families without adding or importing food to her boxes, so her
customers experienced real seasonal eating.
Nutritional therapist Lorraine Demetriou also commented that seasonal, local food is
usually fresher, and with fewer transport miles, better for the environment. She explained
that there is no “good” or “bad” food, only food that suits or does not suit your constitution.
Cian Waters co-founded Waterlilies café with Dave Seitz. Both trained as fine dining chefs,
and sought a change of direction. Plans for a bakery evolved into the café, where they
have created a very welcoming atmosphere. Their sourdough bread features prominently
on the menu and sells rapidly by the loaf.
Cian described the iterative process of change, which was an important theme in this
conversation. The audience engaged with this idea too, talking about the obstacles to
change and the entrenched systems in an effort to describe a way forward.
The outcome was a strong desire to stay connected, with CCEN’s support. George Quirke,
MC, commented that there is a wealth of excellent local food, expertise and passion in
Tullow and Co. Carlow, and we can create a strong, connected food community. As
Elizabeth Bradley treated the audience to Carlow Farmhouse sheep’s cheese and Plur
bakery’s bread made from Carlow-grown wheat, it was clear how delicious this approach
CCEN is planning further county-wide events like these. Don’t miss out on these important
and enriching conversations. Bagenalstown is next on the agenda, as well as a roster of
films in Carlow. A dedicated committee including Dee Sewell, Martin Lyttle, Bernadette
Power, Amanda Shasha, Molly and George meet the first Tuesday of each month and warmly welcome new faces. Check out ccen.ie or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to stay in touch.
In the meantime, look out for your local food producers and Dig in!