Graham and Saoirse Roberts and their children Ethan, Keith, Katie and Amy. Photo: Andrew Downes
Ireland’s first food economusee has just been launched at The Connemara Smokehouse in Aillebrack, Ballyconneely, Co. Galway by the Mayor of Galway, Councillor Tom Welby. An economusee is an artisan business that opens its doors to the public to provide a learning and interpretive experience for visitors.
Owned and operated by Graham and Saoirse Roberts, the economusee at The Connemara Smokehouse develops the educational aspect of the fish smoking expertise that has been handed down through the Robert’s family since 1979. The ÉCONOMUSÉE showcases this artisan process, which begins by catching the fresh salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel from the Atlantic Ocean’s pristine waters off the west coast of Ireland. The seafood is then hand-filleted, dry-salted, seasoned and smoked subtly with beechwood at the Connemara Smokehouse before it is ready for the retail market.
An economusee is an important cultural tourism attraction and contributes to the sustainability of rural areas through the creation of direct employment and by providing an attraction that disperses tourists to rural regions. Speaking at the opening, Teagasc Regional Advisory Manager Brendan Heneghan said: “The economusee concept originated 20 years ago in Quebec, Canada, where there are now over
50 economusee’s contributing to employment and the maintenance of local skills and knowledge in traditional rural businesses ranging from artisan food to boat building.”
“Needless to say we are thrilled to be the first food economusee in Ireland and now a member of this prestigious network. We aim to build on this success as the opening of the economusee today allows Saoirse and I to realise some of our long term dreams and plans for the business. It also showcases Connemara globally, which in turn should benefit other businesses locally and the seafood industry on a national scale,” commented Graham Roberts of the Connemara Smokehouse.
Ireland’s involvement with the economusee’ concept arose from an invitation to Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority, to become a partner in an EU Northern Periphery Programme (NPP) funded-project to bring the successful economusee concept and business model to selected rural areas in Europe.
Involving eight partners in eight countries, the project called CRAFT INTERNATIONAL has already established a network of 17 economusee’s through the NPP area with a target of 39 economusee’S by the end of 2013. The Connemara Smokehouse is only the second economusee in Ireland, with the first located at the Celtic Roots Studio in Ballinahown, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. The medium term aim is to have at least 4 economusee’s in Ireland.
Dr Kevin Heanue who is leading the project for Teagasc said “The economusee concept is an innovative model of rural enterprise support which helps artisan producers diversify their businesses into the cultural tourism market by providing them with a six 6 step template to help them structure the visitor experience.”
Employing eight people at the picturesque coastal village of Aillebrack, near Ballyconneely, Graham and Saoirse Roberts work in a hands-on capacity using the freshest and finest locally caught seafood following traditional smoking methods that can now be explored at the economusee. The Connemara Smokehouse range features on the menus of many of the country’s leading restaurants including; Ashford Castle, Rua Cafe, Kai Cafe and Restaurant and, Eat at Massimos, The Old Convent and exports to many countries around the world, particularly mainland Europe. It’s also retailed online at www.smokehouse.ie at the smokehouse factory shop in Ballyconneely and in selected suppliers including; Supervalu Clifden, McWilliams and Keoghs of Ballyconneely, McGeoughs of Oughterard, Rua Deli and Honest 2 Goodness Market. For further details on the Connemara Smokehouse Économusée visit www.smokehouse.ie, phone: 095-23739 or email: email@example.com.