I am a 3rd Generation Beekeeper. My Grandmother started Beekeeping as a young lady when a local young man went to the trenches of WWI, leaving some beehives behind. Throughout her life, my grandmother shared her love of the bees with her children and grandchildren. Her message was simple, if you care for your bees, they can both teach you and support you. My mothers’ childhood was enriched by the lessons from the bees, but also by the financial contribution the hives made to the family finances. Christmas would have been a very experience for in that family without honey to barter and sell throughout the droughts and low prices of the 1930’s.
When you work through a beehive during honey season, there is always a little extra wax and honey to cut away before the hive is reassembled. My grandmother was a very smart lady, and she understood kids, so she made sure that whoever helped her got the comb cuttings as a reward for braving the bees and the heat of the summer in a bee-suit.
In my own case, this simple formula worked well. I looked forward to working the bees, extracting the honey, and tasting my share when the work was done.
When I was 16, the next step in my education began with a summer job with my Mom’s cousin, who was a commercial beekeeper. Being young and strong, the hard work and long days were inconsequential, and my understanding of bees grew. My boss was a good teacher and a constant talker, so I just had to listen, to learn.
Finally, I was off to university to complete my education. But to finance my studies, I took over my grandmothers apiary. One thing I learned was how much I loved working for myself, so I have pursued beekeeping as a career. Completing the lessons I learnt from my grandmother: I could learn and rely on the bees.
My apiary now has approximately 1100 hives and supports my family very well. We have worked to spread my grandmothers wisdom, sharing my knowledge of the bees with my own children, and beekeepers locally and abroad.
I have visited Chile to offer advice to beekeepers there, and participate in a CESO exchange assignment where beekeeping teachers from the Philippines visit our farm to increase their experience with my friendly bees. I hope to honour my grandmother and her family with this sharing of her love of the bees.
I have also tried to contribute to my community through leadership and membership in organizations committed to supporting local producers. Following in my grandmother’s footsteps, I have been a member of Manitoba Cooperative Honey Producers (which jointly owns BeeMaid (www.beemaidhoney.com) with Alberta Cooperative Honey Producers. I was very pleased to support this organization by serving on the board, including acting as president for some years.
I have also been board-member and president of the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market (www.stnorbertfarmersmarket.ca) since 1993. That has been an amazing organization to lead, since it has enjoyed strong support from its customers; who clearly share our values for local and sustainable food production. I also served the beekeepers of Manitoba as a director and president of the Manitoba Beekeepers Association. (www.manitobabee.org)
For more information about Phil’s Honey, you can visit http://philshoney.com. Phil is a member of the Harvest Moon Local Food Initiative. To view his profile and order his and other farmer’s food visit: www.harvestmoonfood.ca.