More than honey at Hive 'n Hoe Country Store
Health & Fitness
It's a sweet life as a beekeeper, but you'll find more than honey at the Hive 'n' Hoe Country Store in Kincardine.
Located on Kincardine Avenue, just west of Highway 21, the business is owned and operated by Guy and Gail Anderson. They run the honey farm under Lazy J Ranch, while the company operates under Anderkin Foods.
Working with their son, Josh, and a half-dozen employees, the Andersons process their own honey, run a market garden, and sell local products at this location.
"It's important to promote local products," says Guy, pointing to the supply of meat available at the store, from the Big Creek Elk farm between Kincardine and Tiverton, and the Silver Dollar Charlois farm of Robert Emerson in Purple Grove, as well as sheep's milk feta cheese from Pine River Cheese.
"We also have for sale our own honey, honey butter, whipped honey, propolis (a natural antibiotic), pollen, bees wax candles, and maple syrup, as well as produce from our market garden." The produce varies through the growing season, including rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, white currants, gooseberries, peas, beans, lettuce, potatoes, beets, carrots, squash, pumpkins, cabbage, tomatoes, and sunflowers.
"We have an acre of garden," says Guy, "and we've contracted to have corn available."
They have also planted about 200 fruit trees, featuring apples, plums and pears, plus cherries and peaches from their home place.
Guy is also the co-ordinator of the 'Kincardine Restaurants Fresh From Local Farms' pilot project, part of the Grey Bruce Local Food Project, ensuring local produce reaches restaurants to be used in the meals they serve.
Meanwhile, there is plenty to do back at the honey farm. Guy learned the trade from old beekeepers, going to meetings and reading books, and mostly trial-and-error. Josh went to college in northern British Columbia and California to study beekeeping. Together, they have 1,200 beehives, located from Lucknow up to Southampton, over to Neustadt and even one in Holland Centre - but mostly in the Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Saugeen Shores area.
"We start in February feeding the hives and medicating them," says Guy. "We do that until the middle or end of April when the dandelions come out. That's the bees' first food source." Then they inspect the hives and start splitting them to replace any winter loss or to expand the hives. By the end of May, the honey boxes go on and the production of honey depends on the weather and the crops available.
'This year has been terrible because July was too wet and cold," says Guy.
Lazy J Ranch produces about 90,000 pounds of honey per year, filling up 140 barrels at 630 pounds per barrel. "We extract it when it's ripe," says Guy. "You can't take it off until it's been capped by the bees. The honey is late this year. I'm getting calls daily from other beekeepers to see if I have any honey for sale."
When the honey boxes come in, the frames are put through a machine that cuts off the caps. They are inspected manually and then, if necessary, cut again. From there, it's into a centrifuge extractor which holds 72 frames, to blow the honey out. That flows into a sump where it is warmed up and then pumped into tanks. From there, it is filtered and put into barrels for shipping.
"Each barrel has been washed and a food-approved plastic liner put into it before it is filled with honey," says Guy. "They are weighed and numbered for traceability through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It's important to keep extensive records so each label can be traced back to the date it was filled and the batch number."
Last year, Lazy J Ranch sent out two truckloads of honey (wholesale) - one to Billy Bee in London and another to a packer in southern Ontario, says Guy. The year before, honey was trucked to Pittsburgh and Atlanta, and before that, to Europe and Denmark.
"We sell 92 per cent of our honey wholesale," says Guy. "The rest, about 10,000 pounds, we sell locally - at our store and at 16 different outlets."
He says the store was set up several years ago to determine whether local products would sell.
Besides the local produce, they sell artwork by local artists, and hand-made soap, and there are beekeeping supplies available, including small extractors, boxes and wood supplies, nucs (nucleus of a hive), and other tools and equipment for the trade. Guy is also the eastern distributor for "Pierco" plastic foundation frames.
So, take some time to stop in at Hive 'n' Hoe and find out what all
the buzz is about.
09/10/2009 11:00 PM
Susan MacKay cuts the caps off the honey in the frame
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