Local Love for Local Honey: Beaver Creek Apiaries
Beaver Creek Apiaries
Owners: Stefan and Monique Zauner
Startup honey business brings energy, fresh thinking.
This family operation is an integral part of the local agriculture community, which has been a source of high-quality flowers for their bees and advice for their growing business.
Alberta’s 175 commercial beekeepers come in all shapes and sizes. Some have been in the business for generations. Others, like Stefan and Monique Zauner, started up comparatively recently. Beaver Creek Apiaries, located 19 km north of Ryley, Alta., opened in 2015.
“We met later in life and we were at that stage where we were looking for something different to do,” explains Monique. “Stefan grew up in Austria and his family always kept bees. We had a piece of land here. We just sort of looked at each other one day and said: we love this, we can do this and it just went from there.”
Beginning with one hive of bees, unencumbered by past practice, the couple approached the business in a fresh way. Still, despite Stefan’s family background in bees, there was lots they didn’t know. Learning from established beekeepers on YouTube helped, and other local beekeepers in the area were generous with their time and advice.
“We value everything they share with us, and have really appreciated the relationships we have with some of the beekeepers around here,” says Stefan.
Heaven for bees, ideal for honey
Finding high-quality flowers for their bees to forage is a constant concern for all beekeepers. Beaver Creek Apiaries finds itself in a position many beekeepers would envy.
“The area we’re in borders on a nature reserve, Beaver Hill Lake,” says Stefan. “There’s mostly grassland, meadows and wildflowers. Farmers in the area have lots of pasture, alfalfa and hay fields.”
Membership in the Beaver County Ag Society is one way the couple has befriended local farmers who offer their land and crops for foraging. Close communication establishes the best times to set up a bee yard. Follow-up gifts of Beaver Creek Apiaries honey serve as a thank-you gesture to landowners.
With such rich floral variety available, Beaver Creek Apiaries’ signature creamed honey doesn’t come from just one floral source. It’s this diversity of sources that gives the honey its distinctive taste. Beeswax products and bee-attracting seed mixes, known as flower bombs, are also available.
Coping with COVID
Alberta beekeepers have been directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020. For many, lost or delayed access to farm labor made it impossible to manage bees and harvest honey as normal. Stefan and Monique, with family help during busy times, manage Beaver Creek Apiaries on their own. They’ve felt the impact of COVID-19 in different ways.
“We had our products in some retail stores which of course had to close temporarily,” explains Monique. “On the other hand, traffic on our own website is up 50% compared to before.
We do pick-up and drop-off on our front steps, we do deliveries a couple of times per week and we have an Etsy shop as well. We’re filling orders every day, so we’ve been very fortunate.”
It seems a long time ago now, but 2019 was a challenging year for this honey business. Cool, wet weather kept Stefan and Monique from completing an important building project. Now, COVID-19 has added even more uncertainty.
Despite it all, Stefan and Monique find much to be grateful for: the good example of local, surrounding beekeepers, good working relationships with local landowners, and the patronage of customers near and far. Their bees are healthy, the forage will soon be abundant, and Beaver Creek Apiaries will keep on growing.
“The isolation we normally experience as beekeepers is actually a blessing right now,” says Monique. “We’re increasing our online presence, expanding our product line and our work will go on.”