AS a region famed for its exceptional produce, Cork is streets ahead of the rest of Ireland. More than three-quarters of the artisan foods produced in Ireland are made in Cork, and this is where the Farmers’ Market found a fertile ground for its renaissance.
We have great independent shops and, of course, the jewel in the crown, Cork’s English Market. But still, for many, the problem of accessibility exists.
Some of the regions’ most successful farmers’ markets run on weekdays and weekends can quickly fill up with commitments that come with a busy family life. The way we purchase our food is changing too — we are shopping more for it online, saving that little bit of time in an otherwise chaotic schedule.
Now, a new venture aims to increase accessibility to local produce in a way that could save time and effort and inject a little bit of fun into the weekly shop.
NeighbourFood is an initiative with its roots in the UK. Jack Crotty, creator of The Rocket Man Food Company, and venture partner Martin Poucher have now brought the concept to Ireland with the first of its kind to open in Cork. I caught up with Jack to ask him all about it and how producers and purchasers can get involved.
What is NeighbourFood and how does it work?
“NeighbourFood is an online market that is created by a Host, someone in the locality, to gather the best of local produce from small-scale producers into one place. Customers are encouraged to shop online and a collection point is created.
“Every week the producers will post up products that they have available into the online market.
Customers can browse what is available, pop items into the online shopping cart, pay and collect their order on the Collection Day.
“The market operates weekly. A new market opens every Tuesday and people have five days to complete their shop online, after which the market closes and the producers are supplied with their order details.
“On the day of the market, products are made, picked, packed and delivered that evening to the collection point. Everything is prepared fresh to order.”
Jack is the Host for the Cork market, encouraging local producers to jump on board. Currently there are around 20 producers selling through NeighbourFood Cork, with hopes of more joining as word spreads and the network grows.
Many of the artisan producers making products available on NeighbourFood are some of Cork’s most loved. Meats from Caherbeg Free Range Pork Farm, East Ferry poultry farm and O’Mahony’s Butchers; organic veg from Organic Republic, Yum Yum Gelato, Soma Coffee, and gorgeous vegan treats from My Goodness, and more besides.
Why did you decide to set up a branch of NeighbourFood in Cork?
“I’ve been a food producer for seven years, and when I came across NeighbourFood I thought it was a fantastic initiative for a producer — enabling us to produce food specifically for the collection so that there is no waste, and for the consumer it streamlines their shopping experience.
“For instance, if I want to do my grocery shopping I have to visit five or six different places around Cork to get everything, from the veg I want to the meat I want, eggs, bread etc. And sometimes there isn’t the luxury of time to drive around to everywhere you need to go to get the quality foods you want, so NeighbourFood brings the best of Cork produce under one roof.”
Who is NeighbourFood for?
“The time-pressed person for sure! Our goal is for NeighbourFood to be the fastest, most convenient way to shop for food. Definitely, it will benefit those who do not have free time during the day, because the collections, for the most part, happen in the evening, around the time that people are heading home from work. We want NeighbourFood Collection Days to fit in with the home or school commute.
“Our customers are those who like eco food, like to fill their fridge with a wide selection of foods, but don’t have the time to get to farmers markets and different shops during the day.”
When and where does it happen?
“Weekly every Tuesday, from 13A Barrack Street (behind O’Sho Bar). It’s basically a yard that I’ve had for years but has never been open to the public — technically, it doesn’t even have an address! It’s a 200-year-old building located in what was the old Apple Market. No trade has happened there for over 80 years and the building was practically a ruin, but we’ve redeveloped it and will now be our collection point.”
The potential for NeighbourFood is huge, and offers a refreshing alternative to the usual supermarket hustle, but with all the conveniences we’ve become used to: choice, time to browse and online shopping.
More producers will be added as NeighbourFood becomes established in the city, and being the only one in Ireland, Jack says that he is open to having producers and suppliers from anywhere in the country join up.
To find out more, either as a producer or as a customer, visit the website www.neighbourfood.ie