Wheelock Fruits drives expansion as Taste Wexford gains ground

Wheelock Fruits, Enniscorthy – which is part of the Taste Wexford initiative – is in expansion mode. A new visitors’ centre is currently under construction and scheduled to open by Halloween.

On 17ac, the enterprise currently involves growing a range of fruit including: strawberries; raspberries; gooseberries; pumpkins; tayberries; blackcurrants; and rhubarb.

The produce is sold from stalls around the Enniscorthy area.

The land was bought 30 years ago by Cyril Wheelock, who worked with farm relief services before becoming a hoof care operator, and his wife Margaret, who retired five years ago from her job in the Department of Agriculture, Enniscorthy.

The couple are now investing over €300,000 in the development of a purpose-built centre, targeting school tours and young families.

Partly funded by LEADER, it will incorporate a restaurant; farm shop; education room; and Santa visits in the woodland. Glamping is being considered for a second phase of development.

Planning for the future

The Wheelock Fruit business was established in the early 1950s by George and Lil Wheelock and now operates from Finchogue, Enniscorthy. This development is seeing the couple and their three sons – George, Thomas and Warren – look to the future.

“They are all interested in the project and Thomas is particularly involved,” said Margaret who grew up on a farm.

For the last five years, we have been visiting fruit farms in this country and England, and taking a bit from each. People are looking for farm-to-plate experiences and want to put on their wellies and see where food comes from.

Wheelock Fruits is one of a wide range of enterprises being showcased by Taste Wexford.

The initiative got off the ground after O Connell Marketing, Bunclody; chef, writer and independent food and drink advisor, Anthony O Toole; and Wexford County Council submitted a plan to the Department of Agriculture.

Ongoing programme

It aims to develop the food tourism offering in Co. Wexford through an ongoing programme of events, training, promotion and marketing.

In September 2017, agriculture minister Michael Creed announced that Taste Wexford had been selected as one of six projects in Ireland to receive funding from the department.

This was under the Rural Innovations and Development Fund, for initiatives to promote and develop agri-food tourism in rural areas.

It received €46,833 from the department and match funding of €20,071 from Wexford County Council.

A harvest banquet, held last Friday evening in Enniscorthy Castle, was supported by the Department of Agriculture and Wexford County Council, as well as ticket sales of €75 per person.

Experiences

Led by Jean O Connell, who is married to a tillage farmer, and Anthony O Toole, who is from a farming background; Taste Wexford incorporates food trails, food experiences and farm visits to local producers across the county.

Visitors can self-drive or book as a group through Gallivanting Tours. Click here

“Initially, we had over 120 producers and food tourism businesses sign up that were interested in getting involved. We currently have 15 that are ready and which we have assisted to create a sellable experience that is now available to book online, with different day tours available and nine individual experiences,” Jean noted.

We plan to continue to add and develop more as the producers and businesses are ready to jump into the world of food tourism.

There is the option to explore Wexford’s diverse food culture on the ‘Salty, Malty and Sweet Trail’; the ‘Taste of Wexford Trail’; or the ‘Ireland’s Ancient Feasts’ guided by Lorraine O’ Dwyer of Gallivanting Tours.

Learning to dry cured bacon

From traditional chocolate making with Bean and Goose, to learning how to dry cured bacon with O’Neill’s, and visiting the water-operated Ballyminane Mills; Taste Wexford strives to offer memory making moments.

Jean said: “We have recently applied for funding so that we can continue to develop and market the food tourism in Co. Wexford. We are working on a commercial plan to ensure that Taste Wexford is commercially sustainable.”

Wexford has also been included by Failte Ireland in the Step Change programme with Sligo and Kerry, which is led by Sinead Hennessy who works in food tourism with Failte Ireland.

For further information on Taste Wexford, see: www.tastewexford.ie.