A Tipperary farmer who is as busy as a bee on the shores of Lough Derg
Ailbhe Gerrard jumped from building to artisan farming. She has never looked back, writes Louise McBride
Nine years ago, Tipperary woman Ailbhe Gerrard was working on Dublin building sites as a project manager. Little did she know that she would soon be far from the concrete and cranes of Dublin and instead running her own farm in her native county - where she would become an expert on bees and organic farming.
Gerrard founded Brookfield Farm, which is based on the shores of Lough Derg and specialises in artisan food, about six years ago.
"Brookfield Farm is a farm I bought myself with all my own money," said Gerrard.
"Before the economic crash, I had been working in Dublin in construction, as a project manager. After the crash, I studied sustainable development in London. While studying that, I thought about what my next big project could be and decided it would be food and farming."
Gerrard is from Nenagh originally, about half-a-mile from Brookfield Farm.
"I really believe in farming and agriculture," she says. "Before I set up the farm, I could see the potential for a medium-sized farm that could be economically viable and also provide a place for wildlife to thrive. The old traditional farms did that; they didn't impact negatively on biodiversity and wildlife. I'm carefully designing the farm to be sustainable environmentally, socially and also economically, so that I can make a living from it."
Since December 2014, people have been able to buy shares in the farm's beehives, a product known as hiveshare. "I was trying to think of a way that people could have some ownership of the farm -and that's where the hiveshare idea comes from."
The shares that can be bought range from one-eighth of a hive to a full hive. A full share of a hive in the farm, which is called the 'Queen Bee' hiveshare, costs €430. A quarter share, called the 'Bee Meadow', costs €260. An eighth of a hive, which is called the 'Bee Garden', costs €95. Each hiveshare comes with its own gift box, certificate, and jars of raw honey - straight from their hive.