We are lucky to have a band of brothers in our food culture who quietly campaign and contribute time and effort to make our food culture better. We like to think of them as philanthrofoodies, people who are dedicated to making our food and farming better. Here's a little shout-out to a few of the people who made a difference in 2015...
The ludgate@skibbereen project is a plan to create 500 tech jobs in a high-speed digital hub in Skibbereen in West Cork. It's happening right now thanks to the fact that John Field, the legendary owner of Field's supermarket in the town, has donated an old bakery belonging to the company to the project, in order to make the dream into a reality. Mr Field has been busy for the last 40 years running one of the glories of Irish food, welcoming every Irish artisan onto his shelves and ensuring their survival. Field's supermarket is his legacy, whilst the Ludgate will be the future. (photo sourced from thejournal.ie)
Kevin Thornton, Ronan Byrne, Caroline Byrne and Wade Murphy from Euro-toques Ireland
Flying to Brussels to lobby politicians and bureaucrats is boring: the red-eye flight, the dull meeting rooms, the impossibly-pinched time frame. You need to be both dedicated and visionary to do something like that, and to do it to voice your opposition to an obscure piece of trade legislation like the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). But Eurotoques visionaries like Wade Murphy and Kevin Thornton, along with secretary-general Caroline Byrne and Galway farmer Ronan Byrne, did just that to call for a halt to the TTIP, and they did it quietly and unselfishly, because they believe that the TTIP can cause untold damage to our food culture.
Con Traas knows how to grow the best apples in Ireland, and he knows that Ireland is the best place in the world to grow apples. But he doesn't just tend his orchards: he also represents apple growers in IFA committees, drawing up Bord Bia standards, and toiling away, unpaid. So spare a thought for Mr Traas and the many volunteer Irish farmers like him when they learnt that the Irish Farmers Association fat cats up in Dublin were creaming in half a million a year in salaries and pensions and bonuses. And bear in mind the now-laughable motto of the IFA: “Unity”. At the end of 2015 Mr Traas has his credibility, but the organisation to which he has given so much hasn't an iota of decency to call its own. Unity, how are ya.
Let's be honest: when Jp McMahon told us that he was going to organise a chef's conference in Galway and bring in some of the best chefs in the world to speak about global food issues, we thought he was nuts. And, then, he did it – at huge personal risk – and it was bigger and better than anyone could ever have imagined. That's the thing with Jp: he shows you that the crazy stuff is the only stuff worth bothering with.
Turn up at any food event on the west coast and Jacinta Dalton, a lecturer in GMIT, will be there, usually organising, toiling, cleaning, or clearing up, often in tandem with her professional buddies Cormac Dalton and Cait Noone. Ms Dalton's unpaid efforts are part of the founding fabric of the west coast's food culture, and that culture would be immesurably poorer without her powerhouse striving. (photo'd here with fellow food hero Cormac Handy)