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Life guarding not an option, university student turns to beekeeping for summer employment

The family cottage is now home to 20 bee hives

The Berg family summer cottage in Tarbutt Additional Township is a hive of activity this year.

20 hives to be exact.

It’s home to a new honey bee farm called Country Bear Honey. The operation is run by fourth year Western University kinesiology student Andrew Berg and his brother Alexei, a recent university graduate.

The business was born out of passion and necessity.

The Berg family has always been “in love” with nature said Andrew. He said they have always tried to connect with nature.

About four years ago Andrew’s father and brother travelled to southern Ontario and came home with a number of honey bee hives.

“The hobby turned into a number of more hives as the years progressed. We sit with 20 hives this summer,” said Andrew.

His usual summer job is lifeguarding, but COVID-19 changed things. Andrew took advantage of what was offered at the Summer Company program and launched his business.

A number of factors go into how much honey each hive produces. Andrew says you can expect about 20 to 60 pounds of honey per hive every year and get roughly 10 dollars a pound. That price goes up if you can certify that the honey is organic, but that’s not a simple task.

The Bergs don’t use chemical sprays in their honey operation. However, you also have to ensure that in their travel bees don’t come into contact with chemicals. It’s easier in Northern Ontario where farms are spread apart, but it’s still a tall order for a company that’s just moved on from the hobby stage.

The world’s bee population has been through its own pandemic in recent years. Numerous news reports have detailed the declining numbers and the ramifications.

In fact, the social distancing bees have in Northern Ontario is a benefit when it comes to fighting this trend.

“We’re kind of lucky in the North. There’s not as much travel from one beekeeper to another,” said Alexei.

Alexei said the most important thing now is to make sure the hives are strong and able to go into the winter months parasite free.

For Andrew, the most eye-opening part of operating a business is managing details such as registration, getting a logo, insurance and cash flow.

Andrew will be marketing his product on social media,.

Beekeeping is a seasonal business, but Andrew hopes to keep operating in the future. He’s thinking about branching out to maple syrup.

Andrew is also passionate about educating the public and injecting youth into the beekeeping industry.

“Educating the public about beekeeping is extremely important,” he said, emphasizing the role bees play in the environment and in agriculture as pollinators.

There are other beekeepers in the area, but Andrew’s experience is that it’s largely a retirement hobby for people in their 60s.

“I want to advocate for and educate people in my own demographic,” he said.

You can email Country Bear Honey at countrybearhoney@gmail.com

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