The picturesque Bushmills village recently played host to a cross-border delegation from the Food Coast Donegal network, who sampled all the finest that Bushmills has to offer, and explored possibilities for future cross-border collaboration and partnerships.
‘A Taste of Collaboration’ project is funded by Enterprise Causeway as part of its €7.8m Bushmills Courthouse project.
Over 30 food and drink producers, hospitality & visitor experience providers from the Taste Causeway and Food Coast Donegal, alongside stakeholder organisations – Visit Causeway, Donegal County Council Tourism Team, Tourism NI and Failte Ireland, are collaborating in a ‘buddy’ system.
The aim of the project is to encourage mutual learning and networking, explore opportunities for product development, joint visitor experiences, packages, itineraries and developing closer links between the Causeway Coastal Route and the Wild Atlantic Way.
The visit began with sampling an array of local food and drink in The Designerie, where attendees learnt all about how this creative retail hub is supporting 98 artists and 10 resident makers.
Next it was onto a short walking tour of the village, showcasing key heritage points, such as the River Bush, the Salmon Fisheries and construction work on the Courthouse building. The walk concluded at Bushmills Inn.
It was here that the group heard fromEsther Dobbin, Region and Development Manager at Tourism Northern Ireland, as she outlined the Shared Island Strategy and the possible collaborative tourism opportunities going forward.
Sharon Scott, from Taste Causeway, and Maura Toner, from Food Coast Donegal, provided insights to their networks, followed by a breakout ‘meet your match’ session, where the ‘buddies’ were able to further discuss concepts and ideas such as joint promotional and marketing efforts, product and visitor experience development, creating successful food destinations, developing visible and sustainable networks and exploring avenues for joint funding and income generation.
Food Coast Donegal attendees were treated to the award-winning Taste Causeway Chocolate Experience, led by Geri Martin at The Chocolate Manor in Castlerock, and shown how to craft their own chocolate truffles flavoured with Taste Causeway produce.
A reciprocal visit is planned for Tuesday 28thNovember, where Food Coast Donegal will play host to Taste Causeway members, furthering the potential cross-border collaboration opportunities and expanding the knowledge and relationships created.
Feedback from the group of attendees was full of praise and delight to have had the opportunity to come together, in such a meaningful and transformative event, with plans already being made to visit one another’s businesses. One participant captured the spirit of the day perfectly: “The buddy system was such a fantastic idea – understanding what could be achieved when people work together. Most indefinitely – valuable and long-lasting connections have been made. This is only the start of a very exciting venture.”
Discussing the event, CEO of Enterprise Causeway, Jayne Taggart said: “The first ‘Taste of Collaboration’ event has laid an extremely solid foundation for exciting cooperations between Taste Causeway and Food Coast Donegal, and just how the Bushmills Courthouse can play an active role in facilitating such activity and events. It was fantastic to be able to show the progress of the building, as well as highlight all of our incredible food and drink producers throughout the day. We are committed to creating opportunities for individuals, communities and businesses to thrive and are excited for our visit to Donegal and what the future holds in terms of realising new opportunities for future partnership working.”
Adding to this, Brenda Hegarty, Head of Enterprise, Donegal, said: “In the spirit of collaboration, this event has set the stage for exciting partnerships between Taste Causeway and Food Coast Donegal. With the potential to facilitate meaningful connections between our local food and drink producers, this event signals exciting possibilities for cross-border food and drink partnerships. On behalf of Food Coast Donegal, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to all the team for a wonderful experience. We enjoyed learning more about the producers of the Causeway Coast and look forward to hosting Taste Causeway food and drink producers in Donegal in November.”
Sharon Scott from Taste Causeway summarised the benefits of collaboration:“Both Food and Drink networks are ambitious and committed to showcasing local produce to both locals and visitors. While each network has different structures, strategic priorities and strengths, we have lots to learn from each other and have identifiedfuture opportunities for collaboration and growth.”