Could you tell us a bit about the history of Olly’s Farm?
It all started when myself and my partner bought an 8.5 acre farm up the Dublin Mountains in the Valley of Glenasmole. I had just purchased my first hive of bees in June 2012 and we moved into the farm along with the bees at the end of August 2012. I only ever intended to keep two or three hives for our own use as part of our smallholding. We planned on producing as much of our own food as possible on our smallholding and now we are self-sufficient in honey, beef, pork, eggs, fruit & veg. We do as much preserving and pickling as we can to make the produce last all year round. But word got out about the honey and some locals started asking for it and pre-booking so I kept increasing my number of hives each year. In 2016 I decided to turn it into a business and I’ve currently got around 180 colonies going through the winter at the moment.
Why is using Irish ingredients important to your company?
We don’t use any ingredients, all the honey we produce is 100% made by my bees in my apiaries around South Dublin and North Wicklow. As its seasonal, when it’s sold out its gone until the next season. I don’t and have no plans on ever using anyone else’s honey. I know my bees and honey and exactly where each jar comes from and that’s very important for me.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as a food producer in Ireland?
Being a small producer it’s difficult sourcing materials and equipment, buying in bulk for jars for example does save money but it’s a lot of cashflow just sitting there until they’re used. Finding new locations for my beehives is also another challenging part of keeping bees. If anyone around South / West Dublin has any large gardens and would like to see the bees from a few hives flying around please let me know 😊.
What new trends do you see that are emerging in your industry?
I think consumers are becoming more aware that a jar of honey on the supermarket shelf may not be what they always thought it was.
Also a big move online since last March, I was lucky enough to build a brand new website in June 2019. I always had customers coming to visit the farm to get their honey but in the last year more prefer using the click & collect though the website.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your industry?
Yes, I would definitely like to see better policing and regulation of labelling laws and product origin. So many different types of honey on the supermarket shelves that look like its Irish but the fine print on the back says its blend of EU & non-EU honeys. That’s very mis-leading to the consumer. Also even within Ireland, I personally don’t think it’s right for example that a beekeeper in Wexford would buy honey from a beekeeper in Galway and call it Wexford honey under their own brand. There is nothing illegal about this but for me it doesn’t feel right, we should improve the traceability like a lot of other food products out there.
What has running your own business taught you?
I think the lessons are more in relation to bee farming as opposed to general business problems. But weather plays such a big part of my week and because we live in Ireland we can get all four seasons in one day so learning how to quickly change and adapt the plans at the drop of a hat is important.
Who are some other Irish foodie brands you draw inspiration from?
There are so many Irish foodie brands out there to mention them all but I do love working with The Cupcake Bloke, they’re always supporting local foodie business’s and you have to try Grahams Fig & Walnut brack next time he’s got it in the shop, it’s got Young Buck cheese and drizzled with my honey and topped with a sprinkle of bee pollen from my bees on the farm.
I also keep bees on the roof of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, it’s my weekly Sunday morning trip during the summer months. It’s a great spot for a coffee and they also do lots to support small producers, during non-Covid times they run a few food and craft fairs in the distillery and it’s great to see everyone getting involved. They’ve got a couple of cocktails in the bar using the honey from the bees on the roof, one called the Beekeeper and the other Apple of my Eye.
There are plenty of others around Ireland that I love working with and buying produce from.
What’s next for the company?
Growing the business further and increasing my number of beehives and apiaries every year. I’ve got so many shops looking for me to stock them but I only take on a new stockist when I’m sure I can supply them all year long. But the most important thing for me will always be the same, producing the best local honey that I can.
Find out more about Olly's Farm on ollysfarm.ie