Eight years ago, Chris and Lindsay Kirouac had no idea that they would become beekeepers. All of that changed after taking a hobby beekeeping course as part of their growing interest in DIY activities and the local back-to-the-land movement. Today, they proudly provide unpasteurized Manitoba honey to Winnipeg, Gimli, and Churchill residents through Bee Project Apiaries.
“We were fascinated with the bees, and when we got the hives [for hobby beekeeping] we did the math for how much honey we’d be producing,” Chris explains. “We thought it would be cool to provide really local honey to families in Manitoba. It went along with our philosophies of local eating and the value of small-scale agriculture. We started selling the honey the first year and it grew from there.”
Because of the smaller apiary and their commitment to using more sustainable and organic-oriented beekeeping methods, beekeeping can be a highly intensive project. “It takes more time; you have to pay attention a lot more to the weather and the state of the hives compared to standard or conventional practices,” says Chris. “It’s a very physical job… you’re working in the hives during the day to check on the queen health and hive strength, and the evenings are often spent repairing things and getting ready for the next day.”
But it’s well worth it: hives are treated on a case-by-case basis, and the honey produced has more flavor and health benefits due to being kept in its raw form.
Speaking of their honey, Bee Project Apiaries provides a number of different kinds of honey. From their varietal honey (which comes from a specific type of flower, such as buckwheat, clover, or dandelion) to their creamed honey to their urban honey, there truly is a honey for everyone!
“We’re most proud of our varietal honey,” Chris says. “You have to make sure your boxes of honey that you’ll harvest are only out while that crop is the predominant flower blooming. Varietal honeys have particularly distinct flavors and colors.”
But he speaks just as enthusiastically about his other honeys, as well: “Creamed honey will never go hard, so it’s great in that sense. We add natural ingredients to flavor the honey in unique ways, including lemon, orange, maple, coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon.” At Bee Project Apiaries, they also have urban honey, which they produce in very small volume. “Urban honey is very different from honey in the country. It’s often lighter—people love it! The hives do especially well in urban areas because there is less wind and more stable temperatures. It’s been a really fun project to have urban hives.”
Manitoba is one of the best honey producing areas in the world. Honey has a lot of health benefits and is very versatile when compared to sugar. Through our varietal and urban honeys, there’s great variability in honey. It’s fun and exciting to try different kinds of honey!
In addition to small-scale, sustainable farming methods, Bee Project Apiaries does not pasteurize their honey. “Pasteurizing is the process of heating food to a high temperature to kill any microbes that may or may not be in the product. It extends the shelf life, but honey, if kept properly, can have a shelf life of hundreds of years. Pasteurization can detract from the flavor and health benefits, so we do not pasteurize any of our honey.”
Chris and Lindsay are equally as passionate, if not more so, about the honeybee as they are about the honey itself.
“The honeybee is an amazing critter that adds so much to the pollination and production of our food. The honeybee is also a great example for how, if we undervalue the natural world or the impact we have on it, how very important and fragile yet complicated systems can start falling apart in the natural world. There are many parallels between humans and honeybees. Beekeeping is a fascinating way to see the cycle of life on a miniature scale: there’s a lot of magic to it. The biology is incredible,” Chris says thoughtfully.
Get a little magic in your life today: just add honey!