2019 has been a good, solid year for us at Nith Valley Apiaries. We accomplished a lot, perhaps no more than average, but it all went quite smoothly (no major honey spills!). Having a year that went as planned, more or less, feels really good.
Cassandra, who picked up where Jodi left off as our Retail Manager, has worked into the business wonderfully. A pleasure to work alongside, she brought 8 years of candle making experience to our team. Now we have an awesome new selection of candles!
Chris also joined our team this spring to help with the bees. The bees gave him a hard time the first few weeks, but then Chris' good nature won them over, and it's been really good to have his help. When the beekeeping isn't keeping him busy, he has been out making deliveries and most recently created an all new Product Guide and a new website! We are very happy to have so much reliable talent in Chris, Cassandra and Jodi (when she can spare a day).
Erika has been a busy mother and as she gets time, has been continuing to work on our food safety protocols and simplifying traceability. The office has been much livelier this year; as Erika takes orders or does the bookkeeping, Finnian babbles in the background, making us smile. He is toddling well now, full of baby talk and lately has been putting his toys down the heat registers and in my winter boots! Erika and I find parenting with a retail business at our home a real challenge. It is a tough balancing act, but very rewarding overall.
What has made this year feel solid to us is our bee situation. We are pushing 500 hives now, and it has been my most calculated/controlled year yet. The extra work was offset by the extra help, and although it was only a near-average crop, I never had a time when I felt caught with my pants down. If next year goes as predictably as this past year has, I'll suggest that I'm getting to be a good beekeeper...Lol... I can hear now, Dad saying "Pride goeth before a fall..." He also used to give me that fatherly look and say "Rome wasn't built in a day!" which is also good to keep in mind.
Spring was three weeks behind, summer made good honey flows and fall was mediocre. We harvest, sell and have enough to pay employees, suppliers, the bank and ourselves. It doesn't happen in a day, or in a year, but looking back makes us feel good about where we are at.
Looking forward we are excited for 2020. The 500-hive size feels like it will be a good 'sweet spot' for our infrastructure and workforce.
There will be one extra pair of hands required in the honey house next summer, and I'm thinking about another part time beekeeper if it is a big year. There is so much more that is settled in our operation now, we feel like we're dialing in on better production all-around. We have also been developing better understanding of costs of production these last 2 years.
Along with new candle offerings, we now have tasting sets of our clover, wildflower and buckwheat honeys. Erika and Cassandra reintroduced elderberry honey this summer, now that our bushes are yielding nicely. Jar labels now have the floral source indicated on them, and we have honey specifically from the Huckleberry Swamp (Ellice and Gadshill Swamp north of Stratford) with its own label too. Every spring the Huckleberry Swamp honey has a wonderfully rich taste to it that is unmatched in my opinion. I may be biased though, it is were I grew up.
Coming up, summer 2020, July 25th; Our 4th Honey Festival! Mark your calendars and watch our website and social media platforms for updates as we prepare for the event. We hope you can make it out!
Wishing you all a wholesome, rewarding 2020, here is one last quote that we quite enjoy; "Be like the honeybee, anything it eats is clean, anything it drops is sweet, and the branch it sits upon does not break." ~ Iman Ali (AS)
Many Thanks for your support!
The Nith Valley Apiaries Team;
Mike & Erika, Cassandra, Chris