it was a great gathering of all things delicious for the annual Wexford Food Family summit, held for the first time in Wells House and Gardens, on May 1 with the sun shining in to the conference room to welcome the 100 plus representatives from food and drink producers across county Wexford.
Lynda Larkin of sugar and Spice deli and bakery in Bunclody was awarded the honour of Wexford Food Champion at the event, which celebrated the real people behind the meaning of local produce for the Irish food industry.
The speakers highlighted the important role that small business owners and food and drink producers, be they long term artisan food producers or new start-ups, play on the reputation of Ireland for food tourism and Ireland's reputation as a destination for good food.
Paula Ronan of the Wexford Food Family chaired the summit and there was a panel discussion at the end of the day, following a brunch which included a large selection of Wexford produce, from gelato to sausage rolls, from all across the county.
'It was a great day, we're absolutely delighted with the energy from everyone who turned out and the positive attitude,' said Paula Ronan. 'We're getting stronger every year and we chose to have the event in Wells House to show that we are a county wide food family, and Wells is an official supporter as they supply produce from six of our producers,' she added.
Producer Mary Regan of Regan Organic Farm in Enniscorthy, who rears free range poultry and pork with compassion, was one of three speakers to talk about her 'producer story,' alongside John Walsh of Irish Country Meats and John Kenny of Atlantis Seafoods.
'It was a great opportunity to give some background to the business. It was really just to educate people on how we produce and rear our chickens and make people aware that we're involved in food or agri-tourism, where people come to the farms, and reconnect back with their food,' said Mary Regan.
The Wexford Food Family was set up in 2011, and has recently experienced interest from other counties in Ireland wanting to follow in its direction.
'An event like this is great to interact and network with other producers, we're all in the same boat but it's hard to get out and meet with other likeminded people in this type of work,' said Mary Regan, adding that there are challenges to food producers when it comes to labour availability.
Members of Bord Bia spoke at the event, and CEO Tara McCarthy described Brexit as a 'threat to the industry' that will create a different 'new market reality' affecting the supply chain for Ireland's food industry.
Colin Jephson, managing director of the multi-award winning Ardkeen Quality Food Store in Waterford, described Wexford as a 'beautiful fertile county of Ireland,' and shared his insights and perspectives into the growing food industry.
The event was supported by Wexford County Council through the Local Enterprise Office, with supporting sponsorship from Wrights Insurance Brokers.
The Wexford Food Family a network of food producers in Country Wexford dedicated to growing the county's food industry.
New members are always welcome, see www.wexfordfoodfamily.com or call Paula on 086 1294859 for more information.