Ailbhe Gerrard - Brookfield Farm
Posted by Grace Doran
Brookfield Farm is an award winning farm based in Lough Derg In Tipperary, specialising in hand dipped beeswax candles. Ailbhe Gerrard has farmed Brookfield Farm for over six years, driven by her vision of bringing agriculture back to its sustainable roots. Her work is available for purchase here.
Tell us a little about Brookfield Farm
Brookfield Farm ethos is based on farming, food and craft beeswax candle production while maintaining biodiversity, wildlife sustainability and a strong link with end product consumers. The farm has three main integrated elements: Hive Gifts, a visitor experience and a productive diversified farm. The farm and business were founded by Ailbhe Gerrard, a farmer, bee keeper and craft maker of beeswax candles.
Brookfield Farm Hive Gifts is an original concept, a full-cycle bee-keeping and beeswax candle production which also educates visitors and customers about the importance of bees and other pollinators.
The Brookfield Farm visitor experience currently welcomes visitors for educational farm walks and talks and candle making demonstrations. An important part of Brookfield Farm business, the next phase of development envisages developing a small visitor centre to allow more visitors to take part in candle making demonstrations.
Could you describe your studio to us? What is your favourite aspect of the space?
My studio is very basic, housed in a shed in the farmyard overlooking Lough Derg. It has a corrugated roof, cement walls and floor, and houses the wax melters and it’s where we set up to dip and pour the dinner and scented beeswax candles. There is however, a spectacular view through the doors of the lake, fields, trees and mountains beyond, when we raise our heads from hand dipping wicks in hot beeswax!
What is your favourite tool and why?
My favourite tool right now is my beeswax melter, as I made it with local welders and plumbers. It’s a beast, huge and heavy, but allows slow and careful melting of the precious beeswax, which must not be over heated. My second favourite must be my hive tools – critical to lever the bee frames out of their hive boxes.
Can you describe the making process behind your beeswax candles?
The beeswax candles are part of a grand cycle. We start with the 10 acres of flower meadows we sow every spring. The flowers provide varied forage for the bees throughout the seasons, and we care for the bees, ensuring they have enough room to raise their brood and bring in nectar.
Then we harvest a honey surplus in autumn (with thanks to the bees) and process the beeswax into our all natural and healthy hand crafted candles and balms. We never have enough wax, so bring in some beeswax to add to our own.
The candle making is also quite a process! I also love mixing essential oils and hand pouring pure beeswax into decorated glass for our all natural scented beeswax candles. The appeal of Brookfield Farm hand made beeswax candles is the naturalness of the entire process, from bee keeping to hand crafting. The candles burn with a beautiful golden light, and importantly, don’t pollute the indoor atmosphere as paraffin wax does.
What led you to choose farming as a profession? What do you love most about it? What are the challenges?
I always wanted to live in the country, and was very happy to be able to move back to Coolbawn in Tipperary where I was brought up. Farming myself seemed the most logical and positive way to impact on the food and environment debate. A three year MSc in Organic Farming followed study in Environment and Sustainable Development, giving lots of ideas of what and how to farm.
Brookfield Farm is a diverse farm, with beautiful broadleaf forestry, a native woodland, tillage crops, certified organic lamb enterprise, 3 hectares of pollinator and wild bird friendly flower meadows and honey bees. The land runs down to the shores of Lough Derg in Tipperary, and is popular with visitors for summer open days.
What do I love about farming?
I love the beauty of the landscape I farm, and am proud of the impact Brookfield Farm has made so far in environmental and social areas. I also teach in Gurteen Agricultural College, and encourage students to understand looking after nature while producing food. I have helped hundreds of agricultural students understand the alternatives to intensive farming
As a craft maker, I have demonstrated the craft of beeswax candle dipping at public shows for the Design and Craft Council of Ireland. This has explained to the public the environmental aspects of bees.