We are talking about the old Capitol premises in Grand Parade close to the English Market. Do I believe we need a food centre? Hell yes, I think we do. But it needs to be thought through. Don't make it another copy of some other European or American idea. Be inventive, be the first and show the way.
Cork, City & County, has a rich heritage in food production and is thriving through recession. And it could grow if it is made approachable and accessible. We don't need to have another shopping centre and the English Market covers the food mall idea pretty well. Here are my ideas on what Cork City and County really need and these ideas are based on my experience working with starting food producers and helping them through the struggle in getting their product to the market:
- Incubation spaces that is affordable for starting food producers. It is essential to have space where producers can produce and store their products before getting it to the market. Appoint a mentor to help novice with advise and expertise.
- Retail Space for starting food producers, maybe even regular events to introduce new food products to the public. It is hard to get your product to market. A shop area where customers can go and see what is new and try it. Buyers from supermarkets and deli shops could call in to consider placement on their shelves.
- Training Centre to help budding food producer and chefs to learn the trade like HACCP etc. How often did you see interesting training courses but they are all outside of Cork. Bring training into the city and give it where it is needed.
- Information Hub – it is very difficult for starting producer to get all legislation material in one place. An information hub in the food centre would make it easy to get the right information for the right business. Requirements are different for people who handle dairy, meat & fish. Getting the right information at the start of a venture will save a lot of heartache and time.
- Meeting Points & Forum for food producers to learn from each other. Experienced food producers can share their expertise in forums, talks and meetings. What better way of learning than from people who have started and succeeded already.
So, these are my ideas - can they be realised? Yes, with the right attitude and the right people in command. I am looking forward to the development and can only hope that someone is listening and that Minister Coveney is reading my letter with an open mind.
I am actually a big fan of Simon Coveney. As far as I know, he is the only minister who actually knows what he is talking about, being from a farming background himself. So hopefully, he has the vision to create something in Cork that sets us apart from the rest.
Mr Coveny, I am available anytime for a chat :-)