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For nearly 35 years, food lovers have planned their journeys across Ireland with care to take in a visit to that treasure trove of the very best foods, the independent food shop and café, Country Choice, in Nenagh.
Since establishing their business in 200 year old premises in this traditional market town in 1982, Peter and Mary Ward have never wavered from their stated principles of local sourcing of foods and promoting the work of the best of Irish artisan producers both in the region and nationally.
This they have done through their own business, of course - especially by supporting the network of local and national suppliers of top quality organic and artisanal foods that they value so highly - and also through involvement with the Slow Food movement, Ireland’s Organic Trust, the Taste Council of Ireland (of which Peter Ward is a past Chairman) and other like-minded organisations.
While Peter is the more public figure of the two, Mary is renowned for the wonderful handmade food that she produces on site - many thousands of jars of jams, for example, and those famous Christmas puddings - and for running the delightful café.
But both have been instrumental, directly and indirectly, in educating people in Ireland about the value and importance of locally produced food - in recent years this has included events in the shop such as master classes in wine and food, gardening courses, food product launches and talks and lunches for groups.
The shop’s policy of ‘competing with the ever powerful multiples’ also involves sourcing some non-Irish speciality products directly, including wine, which can then be sold at a very attractive price.
And there is no stopping these people - now joined by daughters Eliza and Evie (who have their own high individual contributions to make), Mary continues to make brilliant traditional and seasonal foods and Peter - one of the most energetic and dedicated movers and shakers in the wonderful world of artisan foods - still likes nothing better than shouting about good Tipperary produce.
We all have many reason to be grateful to them.