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Dale’s Apiaries was first established in the 1950s by Adam’s grandfather John who started out with just a few hives in Port Chalmers and slowly grew the operation from there, eventually moving the family to Middlemarch in the late 1980s.
Adam’s father Blair carried the company on and still operates under the Strathdale brand.
John was also a carpenter and built all his own boxes and frames, many of which are still in Adam's operation today.
Adam’s partner Helena Newenham comes from Ireland and pre-Covid travelled to New Zealand each year for four years for the summer honey harvest.
Last year’s lockdown and subsequent New Zealand winter was the push the couple needed to launch a honey brand they had full creative control of. They chose to do a full circle, going back to the original Dale Honey name.
Adam’s earliest memories were of going out in the honey truck with his grandfather and father.
"I used to love exploring the bee sites on farms all over the place and as soon as I was old enough, I was wearing a bee suit and learning the art of beekeeping."
When Adam left school, he went contracting followed by shepherding and did a stint travelling overseas.
"I came home with the intention to just do one harvest season to help Dad. And that was six years ago."
Adam’s grandfather John is still very active with beekeeping and enjoys being involved in the family businesses.
"He has a wealth of knowledge and we really value his insight into the different seasons and weather patterns we have been experiencing," he said.
Adam owns 700 hives dotted from Lee Stream to the Maniototo and does pollination services through into Alexandra.
"We really appreciate the farmers and landowners who let us keep bees on their place. We are so lucky with the farmers we work with."
This season the couple estimates they will finish the harvest with about 30tonnes of honey.
"It was an above average year due to the rain we got at Christmastime. Without that it would have been another dry year," he said.
A lot of that honey is exported overseas. Adam is a shareholder in Honey Products New Zealand which sells to Kiwi retail outlets under the Otago Honey brand and aims to market the brand overseas.
A smaller quantity is packaged under their Dale Honey brand. In an effort to create a unique point of difference and to ensure their business offers environmentally sustainable packaging, the couple started The Honey Crate; a system where people can buy a four or six-pack of glass jars of their clover honey delivered in a wooden crate which is then returned and refilled for a discounted price.
At present they have three retail outlets for their crates in the South Island and one in the North Island. They also sell online "as well as the odd show or market," Helena said.
Having been born and raised in the industry, Adam is well aware of the price peaks and pits of honey. The current export price for bulk honey is about $5 per kilo. Adam hopes it will eventually correct to about $8.
"Even in the last six years since I have been beekeeping fulltime, the price for clover honey went from an all-time high to a rock-bottom low. It is slowly starting to improve but we have a wee way to go before we get back to a sustainable level," he said.
- By Alice Scoot