Mairead Guinan, co-ordinator of Neighbourfood Tullamore on duty at the pick-up point in the Methodist Church hall on Church Street.

NeighbourFood growth in Offaly driven by love of quality local produce

‘Connecting customers with locally produced food that is delicious, healthy and sustainable’ is NeighbourFood in a nutshell, says Mairead Guinan, its co-ordinator in Tullamore.

‘NeighbourFood’, the only online farmers market in Offaly, has traded through the lockdown since it launched last autumn, offering high quality and innovative products such as KO Kombucha, Durrow Mills sprouted flour, and Garryhinch wood organic exotic mushrooms – which Mairead says "look otherworldly".

Tullamore currently has 34 producers and hundreds of products that customers order online, which are then available to pick up at the Methodist Church hall on Church Street on Thursdays between 4pm and 6.30pm.

NeighbourFood was created three years ago in Cork as a new way for farmers and producers to sell their products directly to their communities, at fair prices, with minimal effort and no cost (except commission on goods sold).

Produce is picked or made to order, maximising freshness and minimising waste and customers go to collection points in their localities.

They can shop 24/6 online (one day is set aside for the producers to prepare orders) and pick up their goods weekly – using their own bags to further enhance the sustainable side of the enterprise.

"Investing in local food, the local economy and personal health is more important than ever in the times we are in," said Mairead.

"It’s so easy to access now, combining the convenience of online shopping, one-stop collection and a delivery service," Mairead added.

NeighbourFood complements regular food markets and means that those who can not attend markets in person have access to quality local produce, and that producers who have limited time have an outlet for their goods.

Collections take place in the afternoon and early evenings and the process takes just minutes, said Mairead.

The ethos behind NeighbourFood is about more than eating, she pointed out. She said that connecting people via an innovative, convenient model reduces waste and food miles while offering increased freshness, taste and value.

"There’s a feelgood factor about purchases that reduce waste and improve sustainability," she said.

"And fresh food, grown and made from real ingredients, supports overall health as well as being very tasty."

She also highlighted the local multiplier effect, which suggests that €5 spent generates €20 of value as it ripples through businesses, organisations and people.

The number and range of suppliers continues to grow and NeighbourFood is always interested in sharing and showcasing more.

There are further markets in development in Offaly, and Mullingar NeighbourFood has just celebrated its first anniversary. The host there, Anna Browne, is expanding into the Ballymahon community.

See more of the local producers and Irish businesses selling their products at or on Facebook and Instagram.