Food glorious food reaps rewards for Thomastown

THOMASTOWN has won the coveted title of the first ever Kilkenny LEADER Partnership ‘Town of Food’ and up to €775,000 in grant aid and supports. The town beat off stiff competition from Callan, Castlecomer, Kilmacow and Piltown, all of which also submitted comprehensive business plans and made oral submissions in the landmark competition.

THOMASTOWN has won the coveted title of the first ever Kilkenny LEADER Partnership ‘Town of Food’ and up to €775,000 in grant aid and supports. The town beat off stiff competition from Callan, Castlecomer, Kilmacow and Piltown, all of which also submitted comprehensive business plans and made oral submissions in the landmark competition.

Pictured above are members of the local community and Kilkenny LEADER Partnership up to their nakles in water. The expert judging panel which adjudicated over the business plans and oral submissions included Kilkenny-born entrepreneur Bobby Kerr, Colin Jephson from Ardkeen Quality Food Stores; Helen McDaid, Food Tourism, Failte Ireland; financial expert and volunteer, Declan McCann, and Tommy Cooke, a member of the board of Teagasc.

Kilkenny LEADER Partnership CEO, Declan Rice, said the judging panel was extremely impressed by the business plans submitted by the Thomastown community so impressed with the vision of all the competing communities that they will work with each group to see how their plans might be supported.

“Kilkenny has always had an incredible food culture, very passionate producers and a thriving community spirit. Our long-term food strategy, ‘Growing a Local Food Economy’ has at its heart the development of local food culture in the towns and villages of Kilkenny.

“The people of Thomastown who were involved in this submission showed us they are very passionate about what they do, what they produce, what they eat. They are very worthy winners and I know they will deliver on and most likely surpass their very clear vision for their very own ‘Town of Food’,” the CEO added.

Kilkenny Food Strategy Coordinator, Kilian Duignan said competition was intenset but that Thomastown’s bid stood out because of the breadth of their vision, their genuine ambition and their vision of and understanding of food culture.

“Theirs was a truly inclusive, well-thought-out and achievable vision for their Town of Food and how they are going to continue to develop their food culture. Thomastown’s food producers already work very closely together. They now plan to offer a very specific training programme for chefs which it is hoped will be delivered in the old school building in the centre of the town. This visionary plan augurs very well for the food culture not just of Thomastown and Kilkenny but for Ireland as a whole,” Mr Duignan said.

A delighted Mags Kirwan said their passion for food shone through in their proposal. “Food is an integral part of our DNA in Thomastown. We are very fortunate to have some really passionate producers in this region. We kept our proposal community-focused. We approached our plan as if it were a business plan for a start-up that we wanted to see prosper and grow way beyond three years. Ours was also a very inclusive plan which incorporates our vision for a FETAC-level training hub for chefs.”

As the ‘Town of Food’ winner, Thomastown is potentially eligible for up to €500,000 of grant aid for capital works and LEADER support and grant aid of up to €100,000 towards a three year program of food related training and education courses.

As winners, they are also be entitled to: Marketing costs of up to €75,000 towards the promotion of the ‘Town of Food’ concept; up to €50,000 towards operating the marketing plan over a two year period; up to €50,000 over a 30-month period towards a Coordinator for the project and the continued support of the dedicated Kilkenny Food Strategy Coordinator to ensure the success of the project in Thomastown.