"It's never going to be hugely economically rewarding but it will reward you in terms of satisfaction and how it fits in with your life. It gives a sense of hope, vitality, growth and connection. You have to be proactive with your peers because lasting change can only be made on the ground," he said.
Evan Doyle, Taste Council vice-chair and progressive proprietor of Brooklodge Hotel, built in 1999, says farmers must focus on the simpler picture.
"Instead of fishermen selling their catch locally, they're going to a wholesaler, which means locals go buy frozen fish in the supermarket. But if that money stayed in the local community, it would have a multiplier effect," he said, highlighting how Clonakilty has successfully adopted such an approach.
He says Achill Island, six square miles and 16,000 hectares, is another great example of rural survival.
"They have certain things they are doing right such as the local abattoirs, an independent butcher, native beer, oyster beds, a smoke house, and they're producing their own lamb and sausages. These can all be sold in local guest houses for breakfast and feature on local pub menus," he said.
However, he says legislative hurdles can block grassroot communities from capitalising on local production.
"In Ireland you can have a brood of up to 50 chickens and sell on your farm gate, but I'm not allowed to buy because I own a restaurant. If the producer wants to sell to me, they must send their eggs off to get stamped, which is wrong. But with little changes there are ways around this, all it would take is some talk with the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority," he said, pointing to similar advances in France, Spain and Italy.
"When a new rule comes, it's blanket. We need the derogations, we need the Government to realise that we can tweak things and look to examples in Europe where they are doing it all the time," he said.
Mr Doyle, a self-professed 'food tourist', says culinary tourism must be promoted nationwide. Unlike the summer tourist, he says food tourists will travel all year round, whether it's raining or sunshine.
"I'd pay good money to fly to Denmark to eat in the morning or to go to farms in Sweden. There are so many people that do that and yet in Ireland we are not attracting those people who would only love to delve into our national food story," he said.
Achill Island Lamb thriving since 1962
The power of food tourism is being "under-measured" by rural communities struggling to survive, a leading island-based food entrepreneur has said.
The Calvey family have been producing their distinctively different, Achill Mountain Lamb, on their family farm for almost six decades. Although head of the business, Martin Calvey, didn't receive any financial support down through the years, he has succeeded in building and sustaining an abattoir, butchers, restaurant and stables on the largest island off the west coast
It has become a leading island employer with all lambs sourced from local farmers. Speaking at the Taste Council's Food Summer School, Martina Calvey, his daughter, says her father created an opportunity for himself and visitors generated demand.
"Ours is really a story of success and diversification in disadvantaged areas. The business has been one of the main employers on Achill Island for well over 50 years and these businesses were the back bone of the local people here in Achill. It's really about people living in a community and what enables people to survive to a standard of living. Everything to do with the crafting and producing of our lamb meat is done on Achill Island," he said.
However, the boom in holiday homes brought a new trend where holiday makers brought their weekly shop with them, rather than buying and eating out locally. "The loyalty is something that we really have to try to rebuild again. We must recapture the past where everything was produced on the island and little was brought in," she said.
'No silver bullet' to rural revival
Ballymaloe Cookery School founder Darina Allen was among the culinary elite celebrating the Taste Council sixth annual summer school high in the mountains of the garden county.
The unique gathering offers farmers, food producers, chefs, independent retailers policy-makers and food professionals from Ennis to Cahir to Kilbeggan an opportunity to discuss issues and challenges regarding their future. This year speakers and panellists examined the rural food community.
Prof Cathal O'Donoghue, head of Teagasc rural development programme, said there is "no silver bullet, it's a lot of small steps".
"Consumer trend for local business is increasing, restaurants in particular are responding. We must provide communities with learning and mentors," he said.