Brian Campbell has put his heart and soul into his Blessed Bee Farm in Richmond, BC. He has hives all over the city, half of them are within walking distance from his home. But he has put a sweet twist on his business, by adapting the community supported agriculture, or CSA model to honey production. He calls it a community shared apiary.
In a traditional CSA, members buy in early in the year to allow the farmer to purchase seed and other necessities for the growing season. Then the shareholders receive a box of farm fresh produce regularly well into the fall. Here’s how the CS-Apiary works. Members can buy in at different levels: Drone, Worker Bee, Queen Bee, you get the idea. One share buys you up to three deliveries of fresh honey or a minimum of one kilo (a litre jar) and other hive products, like a batch of pollen and honey blend. Two shares gets you all of the above, plus a package of locally produced wildflowers, a newsletter on bees and an opportunity to participate in the honey harvest. Queen Bees also get a personal tour of the apiary. Share levels start at $35. Mid-February is the start of bee season, but the honey is not available until the summer.
Honeybee populations have been falling in recent years; the decline has been attributed to a group of pesticides that affect the bees’ central nervous systems. As a result of the honeybee die off, honey production is down too. Back in the 1970s, a good year meant 250 pounds per hive. Now a hundred pounds is considered good.
While the honey CSA is not a big money earner for Brian, the enterprise helps him spread his passion for the little pollinators and educate his customers about the important role they play in food production. “Honey is a very ethical source of sweetener,” says Brian, “people should have access to it, it’s non-genetically modified, accessible, local and healthy.” So how about getting your honey a share of honey for Valentine’s Day this year?