Mary Fogarty, “The Cottage”, Loughmore, and Angela Sheehan, Tipperary County Council, attending the Interreg Europe Rural SMEs Workshop on “Social Innovation” in Sumeg in Hungary
Tipperary trail blazers Loughmore Cottage have been held up as pioneers in helping to combat rural isolation and decline at a ‘Social Innovation’ workshop in Sümeg Hungary.
Loughmore Cottage co-founder Mary Fogarty was selected by Tipperary County Council to take part in the workshop as part of the EU Interreg Europe ‘Rural SMEs’ Project, of which Tipperary County Council is a partner, which aims to improve policies on regional support systems for entrepreneurs through exchange of experiences and identification of best practices.
“We are so proud of what we have achieved here in Loughmore. Little did we think when we started all those years ago that we would be helping to lead the way in revitalising communities across the country and now further afield,” Mary Fogarty told the Tipperary Star, adding that they felt “truly honoured” that Tipperary County Council chose their project to take part in the showcase in Hungary.
During her presentation in front of fellow ‘social innovators’ and local authority with representatives from Spain, Greece, Romania, Portugal and Slovenia, Ms Fogarty outlined the reasons for setting up the cottage, the obstacles and challenges faced by the co-operative and how integrating the local community at the core of the project has been central to its success.
While in Hungary Ms Fogarty and Ms Sheehan representing Tipperary County Council also visited some local rural enterprises including a lavender farm, a cheese making facility and cookery school which had been set up in rural communities to bring industry back into the declining towns and villages.
“We met the most wonderful people during our visit and the exchange of ideas was incredible. Everyone we met seemed to have worked in a different sector before setting up their own rural business. The woman who set up the lavender farm worked as a dentist and the husband running the cookery school was the Mayor in the town. We got to see how these rural communities are fighting against a decline in employment and declining populations.”
Pic: Loughmore Cottage's Mary Fogarty at a Lavender farm in Hungary
Loughmore Cottage opened its doors in August 2012 as a means to combat lost services in the village including the local shop and postal points services.
Since then the cottage has grown from strength to strength providing support and revenue to over 50 local food and craft suppliers, acting as a meeting place for several clubs, associations and crafting groups as well as providing a lifeline and welcoming place for many of those that live alone in rural areas. The cottage was named the 'Best Cafe/ teashop in Ireland' by the Irish Times in 2012.
As an added bonus for the Loughmore team, the cottage was recently heralded as one of the most important community led projects to emerge from Ireland in the last 10 years by Dr Senan Cooke who documented the value of the co-operative in the village in his new book “The Enterprising Community” which was launched in Kilkenny earlier this month.