Year of the Beekeeper: Honey Meadows Farm Inc.
Owners: Zwiers Family
Location: Foothills, Alberta
Question: How did you get involved in this sweet industry – what’s your story?
Answer: Jon- I got involved at a very young age. My very first job was just taking off the lids and then putting them back on once my dad and brother had done the actual hive work. I have fond memories exploring yards. It was during these formative years that I found a passion for nature and started to appreciate the industry and science behind it.
Question: What’s a typical day like for you?
Answer: During the high season, we typically start at 7am and go over the plan for the day. There is some extracting followed by the most important part of any good farmers’ day… coffee time! This fuels us all to head out into the fields during the afternoon. There is an inevitable mix of problem solving, machine maintenance, work coordination and strategy development. Work is always kept interesting!
Question: What is the most satisfying part of being a beekeeper?
Answer: Because we know honeybees aren’t native to Alberta and our climate can be unforgiving, one of the most gratifying parts of being a beekeeper is seeing a live, healthy colony at the end of winter. There is a little bit of you that thinks “hey, I played a part in keeping these important little creatures alive.”
Question: How have things like new research, sustainability, innovation, and technology influenced your beekeeping?
Answer: Over the last 35 years, with advancements in technology and innovation, commercial beekeeping can be more efficient in its production of honey and beeswax. Having the ability to easily share and access research has certainly helped us integrate the best beekeeping practices possible.
Question: Finding great sources of nutritional forage for your bees is an integral part of crafting delicious, pure Alberta honey and supporting pollination and biodiversity. What are some of the strategies you use to when selecting apiary locations for your hives?
Answer: There are several components that combine to make a “perfect” hive location. The best yields come from a sheltered site with a nearby water source and early blooming vegetation.
Question: What is one of the biggest challenges you feel the Alberta beekeeping industry is facing and what would you like to see changed?
Answer: The biggest challenge our industry faces is probably a farmer’s favorite topic and the aspect we have the least control over… the weather. We can see four seasons in a single day. Honestly though, I wouldn’t change it!
Question: With such a short beekeeping season in Alberta, how do you manage all the work required to support and maintain the health of your hives and harvest your honey?
Answer: You need to have a good plan, a great team and even better work ethic. And you can’t be afraid to get dirty.
Question: What is the strangest beekeeping question you have ever been asked?
Answer: Once at a school presentation, a student asked how quick a bee can fly? Firsthand, all I can say is that it’s certainly faster than I can run (ouch!). But according to Google, it’s approximately 30km/hr. So, the next time you’re driving through a school zone, keep this fun fact in mind.
Question: If you were to describe your honey in four words, what words would you use?
Answer: The Finest There Is.
Question: What types of honey do you sell, and do you sell other bee related products?
Answer: We like to keep our sales simple with just the best quality natural, raw, unpasteurized honey and beeswax. We occasionally also dabble in lip balms and therapeutic bee venom cream.
Question: Where can people buy your honey and products?
Answer: Our products are available at the farm or by visiting our website for contact details. During the summer you can also find us at a local farmers’ markets getting to know all the neighbors.
Question: What are you happiest doing when you are not working?
Answer: Taking on adventure, hiking the beautiful Rockies, and spending time with my favorite people. If there is a good cup of coffee, that is also a delight.
Wishing everyone has a great season, thanks for reading and all the best!