The Urban Bee Honey Farm waltzed away with the Food and Food Production prize at this year’s Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards.
In 2009, Jason and Lindsay Dault started their business, Urban Bee Supplies in Vancouver, and not long after, bought a farm near to where Lindsay grew up, close to Brentwood Bay.
“We’re about a seven-minute drive from my parents’ house. If we were any closer we’d have to set up in the back yard,” said Lindsay Dault.
The award was a surprise to the Daults, who experienced some bureaucratic challenges when they started, setting them back a year and costing over three times what they expected their start-up costs to be.
But the results of those early travails have been a loyal customer base, and a clutch of award nominations, including a recent win from the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce for ‘Entrepreneurial Spirit.’ In addition to their pure honey, they also offer courses and sell a range of flavours, such as pepper honey and whisky honey.
The honey farm operates 80 hives on the Saanich Peninsula and co-operates with farmers, leaving four to 15 hives in their yards, where the bees pollinate the plants. The company maintain them and harvest the honey, in return.
It might come as a surprise to consumers used to generic honey that the pure stuff tastes different, from hive to hive, as the flavour depends on which plants the bees are frequenting nearby.
Much of the cheaper store-bought honey, consumers think is pure, has actually turned out to be blended or even fake, losing these unique flavours. Honey is actually one of the most widely misunderstood food commodities on shoppers’ grocery lists. Some is partly, or entirely, flavoured with corn or rice syrup, and does not contain pollen – the tell-tale sign if honey is real or not. And much of the honey we eat and consider Canadian is actually partially Canadian, blended with honey from abroad.
A total of 74 per cent of all American honey is fake or blended, and 23 per cent of imported honey, labelled as pure, contained additives when tested by Canadian authorities.
In many places in the world, huge barrels marketed as honey arrive from big producers, such as China, and are then parcelled up as a brand’s honey in that country. Canada prohibits Chinese honey as it has a bad track record of using antibiotics and being contaminated with substances, such as drugs or plastics.
There are suspicions among Canada’s beekeepers that proscribed Chinese honey might be making its way to consumers through broker countries, like Argentina or Myanmar, and then used as the blended foreign honey.
Perhaps surprisingly, out of these difficult circumstances, the Daults have grown closer to their local rivals.
“We work with our [B.C.] competitors, we beekeepers all work together, we’re a community.”
And she says that being nominated for awards by her customers is humbling.
“It’s all been worth it. When we get nominated we were so surprised and happy.”