Sarah's Ontario Honey Creations

A HIVE of AN INDUSTRY

A family owned and operated business dedicated to providing seasonal terroir honey and artisan honey vinegars, Ontario Honey Creations is this busy mom’s Plan Bee!

What was your first exposure to bees, to honey?
My first exposure to honeybees was with my husband Peter. When were dating I would see his father beekeeping or hear stories about his experiences. About 8 years ago we decided to start beekeeping as a hobby ourselves and then shortly afterwards, in 2012, Toronto Bee Rescue was founded to provide humane bee removal.

What made your explore “honey” as a business venture?
It’s all been rather organic! We started Toronto Bee Rescue as a way to fill the need for humane honeybee removals. This need was much greater than what we anticipated and we began to have surplus local Toronto honey to sell at farmers’ markets. We also started a family and had 4 kids in 5 years. Given that, I wanted a little more flexibility to be home with my kids while making an income. That is when I decided to leave my corporate life and become a full-time beekeeper. That’s when we began making other honey products and Ontario Honey Creations was launched. Peter left corporate life a year ago so now both working full-time in this beekeeping business of ours.

Where do you learn bee keeping and how long did it take?
My husband Peter is a 3rd generation beekeeper and learned through his family. We also joined beekeeping groups in the beginning and recently found a beekeeping mentor that is a retired commercial beekeeper. Finding a mentor has proven to be the best decision we have made. 

Where are your bee yards?
We used to live in Toronto and started our beekeeping adventure there.
Today our honeybee yards are in three distinct locations: Headwaters - a region about an hour north of Toronto; Rouge located in the eastern GTA, and Toronto’s ravines and green spaces. The Rouge Valley bee yards were acquired in 2015 when we decided to expand our beekeeping operation and transition from corporate life to full-time beekeeping. Our Headwaters' bees are now closer to the farm where we now live. Many of those bees were rescued by us through our Toronto Bee Rescue and will live out their lives in those bee yards.

Do you plant for the bees in your locations or do the bees find their own pollinators?
Before placing our hives in locations, we make sure that there is enough forage and a natural water source. We actually use Google maps and create a 5km
radius around the location to see where the bees will likely go. On our farm, we plant bee friendly seeds and various flowers that bloom throughout the season. 

Your honey is flavored Spring Blossom, Summer Blossom, and Fall Blossom, what’s the difference in flavour?
Each of our honeys is harvested based on the season and our bee yard location. Depending on what flowers the bees visit in the various urban versus rural locations, each honey tastes quite different. The Spring Blossom Honey is typically milder, Summer Blossom Honey is more of a traditional taste, and the Fall Blossom Honey is usually the strongest and has the most floral taste.  The Rouge Valley Summer Blossom Honey is very close to a large pumpkin patch and it almost has a fruity note to it.

You produce and sell honey, but also honey vinegars – tell us more about how you get inspired or develop more ideas for your business.
We try to think outside of the box and come up with unique products. The honey vinegars are made naturally by fermenting our honey, first turning it into mead (honey wine) and then, using a static fermentation process, we take it a step further and turn the mead into honey vinegar. We also recently obtained our meadery license and will soon be able to sell our meads. After sharing memories of creamed honey with cinnamon on bread with a customer we also now we produce five different Creamed Honeys (Plain, Cinnamon, Lemon, Ginger and Cocoa).

Honey is regarded as a superfood – agree and why?
Agree! Not only does it taste great raw local honey has many benefits. Raw honey has natural antibacterial properties and can help a sore throat, or be used topically for skin rashes or minor cuts and it also has natural pollens in it that can
help alleviate seasonal allergies. I have even used it on my dogs’ feet when they get seasonal allergies! The bees also produce many other products in the hive like propolis, which is a natural antiseptic and can help even more. Honeybees are amazing!

Your product is proudly “local”. How important is that to you?
Local is very important to me as well as knowing exactly where you food
has come from. Each jar you pick up has exactly where it produced and what
season. Locally produced food is good for the economy = and helps supporting the local farmers in your area.

Your favorite honey concoction? Mead by far.
And honeycomb. Through some locally produced cheese in there and you
have a delicious evening!

Let’s talk about bees! To Bee or Not To Bee? Honey bees are just one kind of bee, correct?
In Toronto there are hundreds of different species of bees. Bees of Toronto is a great resource to learn a little about the over 350 different species of bees

in the city:
(https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/8eb7-Biodiversity-BeesBook-Division-Planning-And-Development.pdf)

There are a lot of myths around honeybees, for instance people think bees in general are always “on the sting”, true or false?
False! Honey bees do not want to sting, as they will die if they do. If bothered they might fly at you, but then bounce off your body. Wasps on the other hand can sting multiple times without dying. However, they are excellent predators and in the garden eat the "bad bugs" like caterpillars and aphids. They also help slightly with pollination.

What causes bees to swarm and what should someone do if they see a
swarm of (wild) bees?
Honey bees are the only bees that swarm. It is their way of spreading their genetics. Essentially the hive is splitting in half. 

A swarm is just a big ball of bees, roughly the size of a soccer ball. Swarms are temporary and usually move on within 24-48 hours. When a swarm is happening, it can look quite intimidating, although the bees are usually at their calmest.

They have gorged on honey before leaving the hive, and are patiently
waiting for their scout bees to find a new home to move into. Once those
scout bees find a new home, the swarm will fly away together, typically
into a hollowed out cavity of a tree or, in an urban setting, in an empty
space in a structure.  If you see a swarm, you can call Toronto Bee
Rescue or take a picture and email it to info@torontobeerescue.ca.

How does your Plan Bee fit into your life?

I have always loved nature and animals from a young child. I wanted to become a vet and then I took chemistry and quickly realized that wasn't going to happen. Beekeeping seemed to just fit in with my love for nature. Beekeeping itself it also
very calming and relaxing. As I am now anaphylactic to honey bee venom, my husband now does all the beekeeping himself. I regularly see an allergist for venom shots so hopefully next season I can began working with the bees again.

Your kids have bee-keeping kits – are they learning on the job?

They have been involved from day one. They have their own little beekeeping suits and regularly ask to tag along with Daddy to the bee yards. It doesn't hurt that they also get to snack on fresh honey on the job. 

You’re caretaking something precious (bees) and bringing something good to market (honey), plus you have kids, how to do you maintain the energy? Coffee! And I try to find a balance among the chaos. We work very hard, especially during beekeeping season with long days that often start at 5am and end around 10pm. Sometimes balance is hard to come by, but I have learned to schedule tasks around my kids’ routines and how to be extremely productive in about 2 hours, while the youngest naps.

You’re a mother and entrepreneur…Any tips for women with kids wanting to start their own business?
Don't be afraid to do it. If you have an idea, start implementing it right away. Begin with a small step, like registering your business name or creating a social media following. Break down the tasks so that they are manageable. Encourage your children to be involved in the process too. Not only will you be able to
create a business and enjoy time with your children at the same time,
but they will also learn valuable life skills. My oldest is now 8 and today I found her home made business cards scattered on my desk in the office. Apparently her new business is called Kayleigh's Kids Crafts and Foods. Future entrepreneur right there.

Visit Ontario Honey Creations at, or discover them at Ontario’s summer farmers’ markets and events. Info online!

www.myhoneycreations.com

 


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