This guy? Peter Ward is his name and he is the Chairperson of an Bord Bia Taste Council. I caught a snippet of him on the Late Late Show a couple of weeks ago but only got to watch the full thing online here. You want a definition of passion for a topic? Peter Ward is it when it comes to food. If you can take 15 minutes out, it is well worth watching the video – just scroll down to the relevant section on the RTE website.
If you don’t have time, the segment was all about his view that we should re-organise the way we produce and market food in Ireland. The supermarkets have too much control over what food we get to eat. Everything has to look the same, be packaged the same with the result that it’s all bland stuff. Farmers aren’t getting rewarded for what they do. In their never ending squeeze for profit margin, Supermarkets are driving farmers away from the land.
Peter Ward’s message for the new year – change yourself, not your supermarket. Find more interesting ways to buy food. He quite rightly says that “food is mood, the most important thing in our lives”. Yet, most of us don’t pay any attention to what we are putting in to our bodies. Going to buy a new Plasma TV will incur countless hours reading reviews and getting advice on what model to buy. Which sausages will we buy this week? Hmm, what’s on special – that’ll do.
He suggests going to farmer’s markets to get in contact with local producers. “Get a phone number. Get an email address”, is his advice. “On the other side of the fence we need savvy young producers who will sell direct.”
“If I had my way Pat, I would set up a national Ebay to link the farmer with the customer and eliminate the supermarket”.
Although Pat Kenny said it’s not likely to happen any time soon, I was sitting there watching it and wondering “Why not?” – there doesn’t seem to be a reason why it couldn’t happen. A simple site with county/town listings of farms that sell direct would be great. Department of Agriculture knows where all the farmers are all over the country. A couple of weeks work is all it would take to make contact with each farmer and ask a simple question “Are you in a position to sell your product direct to the public, and would you like us to put your details on a new website”. Ok, ok, I realise that there are probably more hoops to go through, but with a bit of determined effort it could happen.
It got me thinking some more though. Wicklow Town, in common with a lot of other small towns in Ireland, has a lot of vacant shops in the town centre. Wouldn’t it be great if farmers got together to set up co-operatives and rent empty shops and use them to sell their fresh products. I would love to be able to walk down town on a Saturday and buy my veg direct from a farmer in a shop. The range of products on offer could be more than just farmers products. Home bakers, jam makers and so on. Not the fussy, faffy overpriced stuff that appears once a week at certain farmers markets. I’m talking about the stuff we need buy in supermarkets every week at the moment.
If you had the choice between buying your farm products direct from a farmer or from a supermarket, which would you choose?