Year of the Beekeeper: Wolfe Honey Company Inc. / Honey Bunny Inc.
Owners: Gilbert and Sharon Wolfe
Location: Guy, Alberta
Question: How did you get involved in this sweet industry – what’s your story?
Answer: I started working for local beekeepers as a kid (age 14). After a couple of summers, I liked the work, so I convinced my dad to purchase 50 beehives for me.
Back in 1984, we were strictly packaged bee operators. Bought the package bees from the same fellow who sold me the hives. We set up in a granary with a manual uncapping table and an extractor. The honey collected was pumped directly into a barrel on the outside wall of a granary. The next year saw us move to 3 granaries, and then to 5 granaries until 1991.
In 1992 the decision was made to purchase an already existing apiary in the Hamlet of Guy. This is where Honey Bunny Inc is headquartered today and a place we all call home.
In the 1990’s, after numerous trips to Germany, I discovered that the Germans were years ahead of North America in terms of offering organic food products (including honey). I wanted to further increase the value of our product and so sought to build an apiary and brand and packaging plant to specialize in the production and packaging of organic honey.
I soon discovered that the organic honey category is quite difficult to break into, and that there would be long lapses until the next orders would come in. It is at that time that I came up with the idea to create our Amazing Dad’s™ BBQ Sauce, naturally sweetened with our organic Honey Bunny™ honey. We took advantage of the lapse between sales to develop a unique organic product that helped to showcase our delicious organic honey, and it also enabled us to offer full time employment to our team. Our organic Bodacious Tomato Ketchup was subsequently introduced because we always had left over tomato paste from our demand orders of BBQ sauce!
We have been very fortunate to receive recognition of our local business and products through a number of awards including:
- Finalist in the marketing category at the 2020 Alberta Business Awards of Distinction for Honey Bunny Inc.
- Finalist at the 2020 Made in Alberta Awards for our Bodacious Tomato Ketchup
- Winner of the 2009 Canadian Grand Prix New Product Award for our Peace River Organic Creamed Honey
- Finalist at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix New Product Award for our Amazing Dad’s BBQ Sauce
- Finalist at the 2010 Alberta Export Awards for Honey Bunny Inc.
- Winner of “Most Innovative Product” and “Best Value-Added Sauce, Condiment or Additive” at the 2013 inaugural Alberta Food Awards for our Honey Bunny Inc. Creamed Organic Honey
- Winner of best sweetener at the 2010 inaugural Eat Clean Magazine Awards 2010 for our Honey Bunny Raw Organic Honey
- Expo East New Product Showcase Award
- Winner of the 2010 Service Manufacturer Prix D’Excellence for Honey Bunny Inc.
- Our Amazing Dad’s BBQ Sauce was featured on an episode of the show Food Factory
- Honey Bunny Inc. was featured on Marilu Henner’s TV Show “The Art of Living”
Question: What’s a typical day like for you?
Answer: I usually meet with my field crew at 7:30 am to go over the daily plan. Then, head to my office to tackle office work until around 9 am. During this time I go over plans, and schedules with my office team. Then it’s back to the field to catch up with the beekeeping crew around mid-morning. Sometimes I’ll stay out all day, other days I’ll come back in. It all depends on how the day unfolds!
Question: What is the most satisfying part of being a beekeeper?
Answer: I love working outside with the bees. It is so fascinating to watch bees work.
When extracting is in full swing, and the honey flow is on- so cool to watch the honey go from field to finished product
Question: How have things like new research, sustainability, innovation, and technology influenced your beekeeping?
Answer: There have been a lot of changes to beekeeping in the last 30+ years. All the new research and innovation available to us now has definitely allowed the industry to continue to grow. We are very fortunate to have the Tech transfer team nearby, the information they provide to us is very helpful to assist us to manage our colonies.
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: We are always looking for sheltered sites, good forage areas, and wild 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 challenges change each year, most recently, COVID came out of left field and all the problems that it brought upon us were unexpected.
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: We are lucky to have a great team to manage the workload. We definitely need to plan accordingly and implement different ways of becoming more efficient. We don’t use the same systems and methods today that we did a decade ago.
Question: What is the strangest beekeeping question you have ever been asked?
Answer: With Beekeeping being a unique profession, we get a ton of questions! We have a customer inquiry section on our website where people can write in. We don’t have any strange questions that come to mind, however we do have a lot of heartwarming stories that people write in about how our honey reminds them of their childhood, or brings them comforting memories.
Question: If you were to describe your honey in four words, what words would you use?
Answer: Rich, thick, creamy, decadent.
Question: What types of honey do you sell, and do you sell other bee related products?
Answer: We offer raw, creamed and liquid honey, bee pollen, condiments sweetened with honey, and lip balm made from beeswax
Question: Where can people buy your honey and products?
Answer: Wal-Mart, Safeway, Sobeys, Save On Foods, Calgary Co-op, Metro, Loblaw’s, and Costco. As well as various other retailers across Canada.
We also have a small store on site but we try to direct customers to the local stores that carry our products to support them!
Question: What are you happiest doing when you are not working?
Answer: Travelling the world, and spending time at the lake.