Editorial first published in September 13th edition of the Waterford News & Star
“THERE is no better place to have a food festival!” Mayor of Waterford City and County John O’Leary was speaking on Friday at the Taste Waterford lunch as part of Waterford Harvest Festival, which was poised to be a phenomenal success, had the rain not thrown a spanner in the works for Sunday. Still, this year’s Harvest Festival is not to be written off because of the vagaries of our weather. The thinking and work that went on in the background to make the event a success – and Saturday’s market and ‘Food Done Right’ speakers’ events provided an excellent taster – is to be applauded.
GIY (Grow It Yourself) were tasked with the event’s organisation this year, an exciting development in itself, given their continued success in Waterford and across the country through their sustainable food and educational initiatives.
‘Events like Harvest help Waterford market and capitalise upon the abundance of its produce, and the provenance of that food and drink’
Supported by Waterford Council, probably what was most tantalising about this year’s event was the backing they received from a huge number of local producers and purveyors of good food and drink. Saturday saw the buzzing market we had come to know and love during previous iterations of the festival, prior to the pandemic years, return – this time to the very heart of the city. John Roberts Square, Arundel Square and Broad Street filled with stalls featuring all sorts of tasty, imaginative and diverse food options, predominantly from Waterford restaurants, eateries and producers. The statistics behind them tell why Mayor O’Leary was able to confidently state that there was no better place for a food festival. 52% of those present were Waterford producers, and the rest hailed from within a 100 mile radius of the city.
Waterford Harvest is exactly that – an opportunity to taste what is produced at home. Michael Kelly, founder of GIY, justifiably beamed with pride at the Taste Waterford lunch when he said: “A huge thanks to all of the businesses who have come on board.” While addressing the business networking lunch, it will not have been lost upon those in attendance that, in Harvest, he had pulled off a powerhouse event built on networking, support and collaboration.
“One of the things that is unique about the festival is that we do celebrate the harvest,” Michael said. “I think it’s a really important thing that we reclaim the harvest… this is a time of abundance.”
His message is not just important in terms of putting a spotlight on the wealth of fantastic, innovative producers in Waterford, but at its core it is timely in terms of climate change and educating people on sustainability. Of course, hand in hand with that comes the bonus that is the great taste of eating small batch, high quality, locally produced food.
“We are trying to put sustainability at the heart of the festival, we are really proud that more than half of the producers are from Waterford,” Michael said. Bríd Kirby, Head of Enterprise at the Local Enterprise Office, echoed his words: “There’s an amount that’s here to offer and it’s of great quality.”
Given that food and beverages account for 35% of a tourist’s overall spend, there is no doubt that events like Harvest help Waterford market and capitalise upon the abundance of its produce, and the provenance of that food and drink.
Waterford Harvest is ultimately a successful celebration when done right because we have something so valuable to celebrate. As Richard Povey, Project Manager of Taste Waterford, said, “We have everything in Waterford to be the number one food destination in Ireland.”