Is a county really big enough for a Food Strategy?

In Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP) we are currently in the throes of driving the preparation of a ‘food strategy’ for County Kilkenny. Involving food producers, retailers, state and local agencies, it’s both an exciting and a difficult process. The usual complicating stuff in any partnership process is, and will always be there; agreeing on goals, assignment of responsibilities, finding resources, mediating different agendas, reconciling strong personalities, etc. However a more global question has arisen as the interest in food in the region becomes evident in the number of food festivals in the region. Kilkenny’s own “Savour Kilkenny” has its fourth and biggest outing this October the 22nd to 25th. KLP is happy to be a key supporter of the festival and is convinced it will go from strength to strength.
But in terms of a strategy, is a county big enough territory to make an impact at national and international level? I suppose the answer has to be, it depends on the county and its uniqueness and range of products, etc. So would a regional strategy be possible in the southeast. And if it is, could counties go a step further and put their competitive instincts aside and to build and support a regional brand? The jury’s still out on those questions but I get the feeling that we are moving towards serious consideration of them. Waterford’s recent Harvest Festival workshop featured an interesting session, in which yours truly took part.
Kilkenny’s new Food Strategy is currently in late draft and will be launched at the start of Savour on the 22nd. We believe it’s going to be a real first in integrating production, retail and education elements. The county should benefit immensely – once we all deliver on our respective commitments. However, perhaps perversely to some perspectives, the group have given serious thought to whether it should be confined to being a county strategy or offered as a model for other counties, or – yes regions! One thing’s for sure there’ll be conversations among the various players in the region over the next few months.

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