The State of Play: Part 2
Well, quite a lot has changed around here in recent times! In the last update I mentioned how we had come up against a bit of a barrier in terms of needing a bigger and better premises to process and pack our honey in 2017 and really this is the area where we have been focusing most of our attention as of late.
The big news is that we have a place! After exploring a few options, each with their own pro’s and con’s, we have ended up buying a 2 acre block in Te Mata, near Raglan and have just applied for consent last week to build our very own honey packing shed, complete with workshop and covered area for parking and storing unused bee boxes. The building process is completely new to us, but a challenge we are really enjoying. I have been finding that with each contractor I talk to I am realising how little I know, but also learning as I go (conversations such as this “What are we doing about storm water? Umm nothing. I didn’t actually know that storm water was a thing that needed doing. Right, who do I call about that?” are fairly common at the moment). We have chosen to use Goldpine to build our shed, mainly because they use timber framing, which is more sustainable than the steel framing most other shed building companies use. I has been very scary taking such a big step at such an early stage in our business’ development, but one that will allow us to grow so much over the next few years and give us a solid base from which to develop our business.
We are very excited about our upcoming move to Raglan. We love the Coromandel, and Tairua has been an incredibly supportive place to start this little business but in the last few weeks, as the Manuka has begun to blossom, we have sat back and watched as truck after truck loaded up with beehives has driven past our house, flooding onto the peninsula and that just isn’t something that we can or even want to compete with. Of course there are plenty of beekeeper’s and beehives on the West Coast too, but trying to set up hives in the Coromandel just doesn’t seem like an option for us now. We are really looking forward to a new adventure in Raglan!
With the big move eminent (well not actually that eminent as we have to first figure out how we are going to live on the West Coast. If anyone has any bright ideas for a super cheap housing alternative, leave me a comment!!) we have had a few changes. I’ve gone back to some part-time work to help out as Rory has more and more beekeeping work to do as our hive numbers are beginning to increase, but also to complete my Early Childhood diploma which I was working on before having baby Alice. I’m loving being back at work, but adding work and study to the mix means it can be a bit tricky to keep up with the business side of things.
An exciting development that happened a bit out of the blue recently was a number of teaching sessions in Early Childhood Centres and a school with our littlest beekeeper, educating kids about the importance of bees. This all began when we offered to take some bee-friendly seeds in to our local Playcentre for the kids to plant together as a celebration of Bee Aware Month. It kind of snowballed as more and more people showed interest in having us visit and talk a little bit about bees. This was a really special experience and one that I hope we can replicate in the future. We even got a mention in the latest edition of ‘the Beekeeper’ magazine for our efforts during Bee Aware Month!
In other areas, our commitment to sustainability has been tested as the country experiences a shortage of beeswax. We only use wooden frames in our bee hives, as opposed to plastic, which means that we have to lay a wax foundation on them for the bees to draw out and store honey in. The massive rise of beekeepers (including us!) of late is putting pretty big pressure on beekeeping supply wholesalers, of whom there are very few anyway, and this has lead to a nationwide shortage of beeswax for foundation. There is a good chance that we will run out and not be able to stock our hives fully with empty frames, but the only alternative at this stage seems to be to buy plastic frames. This is something we really don’t want to do as it goes against our whole philosophy so we are just crossing our fingers that we have enough to last us through to late February next year when more beeswax foundation is expected to hit our shores.
We are also working on making other aspects of our business cleaner and greener. The next big step for us is to investigate where to get labels that are more eco-friendly, so if anybody knows of a place, please leave a message below!
The main thing is that our bees are happy, healthy and thriving. Also, our honey is selling well, and our list of potential retailers for 2017 continues to grow. I was most excited as I realised the orders from our website have begun to move from our very generous family and friends, to strangers who have come across our business.
We went through a bit of a quiet patch in terms of honey sales and decided to increase our market appearances and we also took on our first retail stockist (my dad’s pharmacy). Then all of a sudden we had 3 massive market weekends in a row, and the honey was selling like hot cakes in the pharmacy, so all of that saw us sell out of Rewarewa honey and with dwindling stocks of our Coastal Blend honey. We still have plenty of Manuka in stock, but I can see already that we will be hanging out to get that honey off the hives but the end of January. I just hope that we can get our shed built, finished and certified in time of get it packaged and out to market without too many delays. For now anyway, we have had to scale back our market appearances to our regular spot at the Thames Market until next year so that we can reassess our stocks.
Big thanks once again to all of you great people who have been buying our honey. We couldn’t do it without you!