Couple focused on sustainability

Dana (left) and Megan Young, of Tuapeka Honey, Lawrence, have given three hives to Waitahuna...
Dana (left) and Megan Young, of Tuapeka Honey, Lawrence, have given three hives to Waitahuna Primary School to encourage the pupils to learn about honey-making. They also supply honey to other schools for fundraisers. PHOTO: SHAW
New Zealanders are being urged to ‘‘Bee a Hero’’ and champion the cause of our honey producers and pollinators this month. Southern Rural Life reporter Yvonne O’Hara  talks to Megan Young who, alongside husband Dana Young, runs a family-owned boutique honey company, Tuapeka Honey, in Lawrence.

QHow long have you been an apiarist?

Dana, who is from a sheep and beef background, got involved in the honey industry about eight years ago and we have been commercial beekeepers for six years.

QHow many hives do you have and how many litres of honey do you produce a year?

We run 450 hives, including 350 around Lawrence and the Catlins, and 100 in partnership with Robbie and Julia McIlraith on Mount Parker Station in the Waitaki Valley. We sell honey under our Tuapeka Honey brand and will be launching our new Mount Parker brand soon.

Depending on the season, we range from five tonnes to 20 tonnes but average between 12 to 15 tonnes. We also produce comb honey and we rear our own queens.

September is a busy month for all beekeepers and it is a vital time of the year for the health of the colony in the future months so if the beekeepers do not get it right, then the hives can dwindle away to nothing.

We use Wrights Honey in Ettrick to extract it for us and we then send it to Honey Products New Zealand in Mosgiel to pack it, which is keeping with our ethos of supporting local businesses and trying to keep our carbon footprint as minimal as possible and keeping within a 100km radius for as much of the process as we can.

For our Mount Parker honey we extract at Waitaki Honey in Kurow and it is then packed by Sheehan Apiaries in Leeston.

By contracting out this work it saves us a huge capital outlay to set up processing facilities and also gives us more time to put into our main priority, which is our bees and their health.

QWhy did you start bee-keeping?

Dana was working for a company sourcing honey and other quality New Zealand produce and saw how a lot of companies and beekeepers could manipulate and adulterate honey so we thought we could do it in a more ethical and sustainable way and produce higher quality, small batch products. We bought 80 hives and jumped in the deep end.

It has been trial and error and lots of learnings along the way but a rewarding and fulfilling journey so far.

QWhat about involvement with the schools?

Having grown up on the family farm in Waitahuna and attending Waitahuna Primary School, where our children Issy and Rocco also go, we wanted to provide some kind of involvement and education with the kids and school.

We gave them three hives, which we check on throughout the season. The school created their own honey labels and brand that they sell to raise money.

We have been doing this for three years so far and the kids just love the bees and are really fascinated by them and they are always full of questions.

We also supply packed honey to Prebbleton School, and our old school, King’s High School, Dunedin, at a good wholesale rate and they on-sell through their community networks as fundraisers.

QWhat is your philosophy?

We try to beekeep using as many organic and sustainable techniques as possible.

We use organic varroa treatments and also leave plenty of natural stores for our bees so we do not have to feed sugar syrup.

We use glassware for our packing and recycled packaging for shipping.

We are working on telling the stories of our farmers, land and their history so our consumers can locate exactly where their honey is coming from and give them more of a connection to their food.

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