WATERVILLE’S FARM SHOP IS A WINNER ON EVERY LEVEL, SUPPORTING LOCAL PRODUCERS AND LEADING THE WAY IN GREAT EATING
By DÓNAL NOLAN
IT’S enough to simply step inside Waterville’s Farm Shop/Siopa na Feirme to feel nourished, amid the smorgasbord of vibrant veg, fruit, fish and delightful confections arrayed so perfectly within.
Less than three months into existence, it already finds itself a mainstay of local trade proving a huge hit with the hordes of locals, holiday-makers and day-trippers popping in to get their hands on delicious goods they simply can’t do without any more.
Siopa na Feirme is nothing, of course, without its genial, expert staff – founder Kim Elliott, Moira O’Connor and Mattie Doody – who take obvious delight in meeting every last customer and advising them as to the goodies on hand.
And what a selection you’ll find spilling from the shelves: From divine chocolates, jams and preserves, cakes, bread and cheese to seemingly every kind of vegetable and fruit as well as smoked salmon, hake, cod, duck, chicken, patés, and so much more – there’s even an intriguing little package called Sea Spaghetti on sale.
The range is impressive enough, but what’s truly impressive about it all is the fact each and every last item (bar one or two notable exceptions) is grown or made in Iveragh.
“The response to Siopa na Feirme since we opened on May 1 has been fantastic and I think it was a timely arrival as people are becoming much more mindful of where their food is coming from,” founder Kim Elliott told The Kerryman.
Married to Cahersiveen man Nicky Dennehy, the Middlesex native is now here 18 years. She’s worked in a number of areas since moving to Kerry, but it’s the Farm Shop that has given her just about the best sense of professional pride yet.
“I came up with the idea while taking part in a business course run by Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh. Also on the course were around 20 small food producers from across Iveragh and I just thought to myself ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could all sell their goods under a single roof?’”
Comhchoiste Uíbh Ráthaigh were delighted to help Kim realise the vision as the Farm Shop duly came into being.
It’s been a massive boost for the many SME food producers across the stunning peninsula.
“They’re very happy with the space it gives them to sell everyday of the week. Prior to the arrival of the Farm Shop they would have been dependant on farmers’ market days to a great degree, but they now finally have their own single space.”
It’s beyond the scope of this piece to list every last producer on the Farm Shop food chain, but among the suppliers are enterprises like Eve’s Leaves from Cahersiveen (a massive hit with salad-lovers); Wilma’s Cheese from Killorglin; O’Connell’s Poultry Farm from Ballinskelligs (supplying everything from duck confit to duck eggs and chicken); Castlegregory purveyors of fine paté and Sea Spaghetti, On the Wild Side; Caherdaniel chutney and jam creators A Stone’s Throw; Minnie’s Jam and Preserves from just down the street in Waterville and Daly’s Fish from Cahersiveen landing the freshest of salmon, cod and hake into the store every Thursday.
Only problem these days is that the stuff is becoming so popular it doesn’t stay on the shelves very long. Cahersiveen cake maker Joan O’Connor is a case in point.
“Joan’s coffee cake has a cult following among locals and they’re swept up within the space of a few short hours,” Moira told The Kerryman on our visit.
“People really are mindful these days of buying good-quality local produce and one of the first questions we’re asked by newcomers is ‘where does this come from?’,” Mattie said.
The reward of helping awaken a locality to the magic of its own produce is massively heartening for the Farm Shop staff. This was never more so than on a recent trip the infant classes of the local national school paid the shop.
“We brought the children in to sample the food, but the worth of it all really hit home when one child asked where the food comes from,” Kim explained.
“At least three other children among the group immediately put up their hands to say ‘my mom bakes the bread’, ‘my mom makes the chocolate’, ‘my mom makes the jam’. It was wonderful and bodes well indeed for the future as we could be looking at the Iveragh producers of the future. That was a very rewarding moment,” Kim said.
Everyone is now urged to attend its official opening on Saturday, August 22, when its suppliers arrive in in person with their goods.
Comhchoiste leads the way in community
WATERVILLE’S Farm Shop is a perfect example of the sterling work Comhchoiste Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthaigh is doing to develop its community in a sustainable way, in accordance with best environmental practice.
The Farm Shop – opposite the prom down the village – is just one aspect of the Comhchoiste’s work. It’s for everything the Comhchoiste is doing to develop and promote the Iveragh peninsula and its Gaeltacht that it is now being championed by The Kerryman in the national 2015 Get Involved Local Newspapers competition.
Get Involved is all about building sustainable communities that protect and nurture the environment – exactly in tune with the mission of the Comhchoiste.
By giving food producers a co-operative space, the group are helping to sustain and create jobs and encourage the production of goods grown and made along largely organic lines.
In this way, the work of the Comhchoiste is playing its own small part in a growing movement worldwide securing local supply, in the process helping to cut back on the use of fossil fuels required in the transportation of goods across globalised markets. More on the Comhchoiste’s great work is to follow.