Beekeeping keeps family busy

Honey is taken off the hives and brought straight back to the extracting facility in Kimbell by...
Honey is taken off the hives and brought straight back to the extracting facility in Kimbell by Andy Westland, with help from Vince (9) and Melanie (8) Westland. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Westlands Honey is as close as you can get from hive to honeypot.

Owner operators Amy and Andy Westland are based in Kimbell, South Canterbury, where they live and run their beekeeping business.

The couple do all the work from running hives through to extracting, packing and selling the honey. Most of their product is sold to bulk buyers.

Around 840 of their hives are spread through the Mackenzie from Albury to Twizel.

Their business lost most of its brand sales during Covid-19 lockdown.

"We were supplying honey to accommodation and restaurants in the Mackenzie and South Canterbury area which has all pretty much stopped, so we are having to find new ways to diversify. We can produce the honey but it is becoming hard to sell, if you can sell it at all."

Beekeepers around the country were sitting on two seasons worth of honey.

"I know the industry will come right but with it coming into the third season of an industry low it continues to be a huge challenge.

‘‘We are starting to do Honey House Tours which will give people the opportunity to come and see a grassroots-type business and see how it all works."

Their honey was 100% natural, she said.

It was taken off the hives and brought straight back to the extracting facility in Kimbell, where it was extracted, pottled and labelled.

"Andy has been beekeeping since he was in high school, over 35 years ago, when his mum saw an ad in a newspaper and thought it would be a good thing for her son to do.

"He already had birds, lizards and mice so this was just something to add to the collection.”

Since then Mr Westland has had jobs which varied from working for a commercial beekeeper while growing hive numbers to shearing sheep to help support the business.

"Since you cannot borrow money for beehives themselves, it has taken a while for us to grow, most of the hives we have made ourselves. We were very lucky to be able to buy the extracting plant from Merv and Margaret Cloake, of Cloakes Honey in Fairview, Timaru.”

The Westlands ran the contract honey extracting side of Cloakes Honey for three years before being able to buy some land and build a shed, taking their business to Kimbell.

While they plan to build one day, the shed was kitted out as a small house to save money for their passion.

"We have been lent, on a long term lease, some very old extractors and beekeeping gear from an Albury family whose uncle was a beekeeper and, at some stage, we would like to be able to showcase this," she said.

"We just need to grow the money tree and build another shed to house it all in.”

Mrs Westland was allergic to bees and sometimes, so were their children.Her husband could be stung several times a day.

"It certainly makes for an interesting day. I support Andy the best I can. The eyelids and the cuticles of your fingers are the worst.”

Mr Westland’s father, Gordon, used to work in the extracting room.

Now their children, Vince (9) and Melanie (8), were older, they helped out with the extracting and helped packing much of the honey.

"It can be a bit of a war as to who gets to pull the trigger on the packing machine. Covid-19 was a good maths lesson in weights," Mrs Westland said.

Extracting room work could be hard for the kids, starting at 7am and sometimes finishing at 6pm.

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