Opinion: 'Staycations' can bear fruit for your family and local economy
I was driving along (in the sunshine) one day last week when an ad came on the radio that made me say out loud, right there on the spot, "what a good idea!".
In case you haven't heard it, the ad is for Keelings Fruits.
Every day for the month of May, "to celebrate the arrival of summer", Keelings, in conjunction with Trident Holiday Homes, are giving away a 'Family Staycation'.
As is often the case, it's a simple concept but it presses so many of what I consider to be the right buttons from domestic economy and food production viewpoints.
There's the tie-up between two Irish-owned companies, promoting their respective businesses, while the take-up of the prizes will also have spin-out benefits for numerous local economies.
So Keelings and Trident are not just helping each other but encouraging people to holiday at home.
I also think it is clever from a marketing point of view, as a fair bit of the purchasing of these soft fruits is driven by pester power, and what child doesn't love the idea of a holiday!
Then there's the timing. While lots of people will undoubtedly already have their holidays booked, especially if they are going abroad, many others are still on the lookout. And what could be better than a week in a holiday home?
These houses are our own preferred choice of holiday accommodation. We would usually eat a light breakfast of cereal or fresh fruit salad (yes, really!) and maybe croissants, if available, plus one big meal later in the day, supplemented by snacks along the way.
Speaking of holiday homes, especially now as summer bookings are filling up, I'd like to issue a word of warning to be sure to go with a reputable source - and not do something stupid like I did last year.
I transferred money to a UK bank account for a holiday home, which turned out to only exist in some scammer's fertile imagination.
With an annual sales of over €350m and 2,000 employees, Keelings is Ireland's largest horticultural company; one reflection of this is that it produces half of the country's annual production of 300 million strawberries, every one of them picked by hand.
Keelings has long (rightly) traded on being a family company and is now run by Caroline Keeling with her brothers William and David, who voices the aforementioned ad (another nice touch).
The current farm was established in 1926 and they first planted strawberries in 1937, followed by Bramley apples in 1949, then eating apples, pears and cherries. Since the 1990s, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have become their prime produce.
I am also impressed that Keelings is running this promotion at all.
All primary food producers are having a tough year but the fruit and veg guys and gals are being really challenged.
While these kinds of things are decided a long way out, it shows great courage to adopt such a positive approach.
At this point, I also want to give a shout-out to the numbers of soft fruit growers from Wexford who will soon, hopefully, be setting up roadside stalls selling their delicious seasonal fare.
This year, more than ever, they will be grateful for all the support they get.
Trident was set up in 1986 and, with more than 1,000 holiday rental properties in over 75 locations, is Ireland's largest serviced holiday rental business.
Its head office is in Kilcoole, Co, Wicklow and it also operates www.cottages4you.ie, for those looking for something a little bit different.
The Staycation competition offers discounts on holidays booked before August 3.
So I'm busy entering my Keelings codes and, of course, enjoying lots of delicious berries.
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