Bumblebee Flower Farm are Ireland’s first edible flower farm. Vibrant, fragrant, organically grown flowers are sown with the seasons, using regenerative gardening practices and supporting bumblebees.
With sustainability and authenticity at their core, they ensure that protecting our wildlife and Irish heritage are at the core of everything they do. We had a chat with Mags Riordan, the founder of Bumblebee Flower Farm, about her passion to protect our struggling pollinators and her career as a floral designer.
Bumblebee Flower Farm are part of the Euro-Toques Ireland community of Irish producers.
Can you tell me about your own background in the food industry?
Being a flower farmer my entry into the food industry is a little unorthodox because it stemmed from the unusual beginnings of creating an edible flower posy for a 2 year old flower girl that tried to eat everything that was given to her. This inspired a fascinating journey of discovery into the realm of edible flowers, their place in history, incredible flavours and how they’re so much more than a pretty garnish. This has progressed to teaching how to repair and regenerate our foundational ecosystem by creating ‘Living Soil’ through our ‘Biology Works’ soil healthy programme
What inspired you to set up your business? Did you notice a gap in the market?
The climate crisis, degradation of our soils and the need for a holistic understanding of what’s really needed to regenerate ecosystems by returning life to our soils and creating nutrient dense foods again. Luckily this is easy and relatively quick provided you follow the instructions. While we still grow edible and cut flowers it’s now from an educational perspective through our ecological soil school.
How did you set up the business and how has it been growing over time?
It’s been a progression, our crops have always been wildlife friendly and our processes regenerative. The missing piece of the puzzle was a complete understanding of the soil food web, how all the levels are essential and only then can we fix where we’ve got to. I had to learn how to identify the organisms in our soil,using shadowing microscopy to find what’s missing and how to grow them to restore functionality. I’m a certified soil lab technician qualified to perform biological soil assessments and these give you real time analysis of where you’re at so you can put a programme in place eliminating the guesswork and crossing your fingers hoping something will work.
Where do you source the ingredients used to make your product(s)?
This is the best part! It’s all about local indigenous microorganisms that have co-evolved to suit and support your environment, work with your climate, soil type and individual context. It’s all about using local ingredients, even things formally considered as waste. It’s a mix of science and art.
Can you tell me about some of the benefits associated with your product(s)?
One of the things we teach is biological thermophilic composting. This is a process where you’re growing the essential organisms needed for a functioning soil ecosystem that will not need outside inputs, provide all the nutrition your plants/crops need, relieve drought and flooding stress, regulate temperature, reduce/eliminate weeds, pests and diseases which results in healthier humans, animals and planet.
How has working with Euro-Toques Ireland impacted your business?
It has opened up opportunities to work with chefs and collaborate with produces that otherwise may not have happened.
What has been your favourite part of working with Euro-Toques Ireland?
The family vibe, I’ve made some wonderful friends by being part of Euro-Toques and it’s also the mutual respect and appreciation of chefs and producers. Not to forget the incredible calendar of events throughout the year.
How important has social media been for you in spreading the word?
Social media is incredibly important for small producers, we don’t have marketing budgets and it’s the main avenue to build relationships, and reach customers.
What makes your product unique?
It’s complete, our system removes the guesswork, enables and empowers you to take back control, provide a self sustaining system and will increase your profit margin without harming the environment.
Where can people get your product (shops, restaurants?)
On Farm courses here, at Ballymakenny Farm, and at selected venues across the country.
Are there any other small Irish food producers you admire?
How long have you got…there’s too many to mention individually.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since going into business?
Couriers and Covid
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date with this business?
I’m incredibly proud of my Euro-Toques Land Award which was for growing with respect for biodiversity back in 2019.
To date I think it’s my courage and belief that you can garden and farm no matter what size and have a positive effect on our environment. I’m privileged to be in a position to help people realise this and support them along the way.
Could you ever have imagined doing anything else with your life?
What does the future hold for your business?
Expanding the ecological soil school and working with farmers and growers on an individual basis.
We’re working with Maria Flynn of Ballymakenny Farm regenerating an acre of agricultural soil into a regenerative organic market garden using the complete soil food web through our ‘Biology Works’ programme. This is very exciting as it will provide produce for ‘The Spud Shack’ and serve as a demonstration garden showing all the benefits of our ‘Whole’ systems approach.