By Paul Pickrem
Things are buzzing at Brandt’s Bees.
Jane and Perry Brandt have been selling honey and other honey by-products for 11 years, made from about 100 bee colonies located between Wolfville and Lockhartville.
In a recent interview, Perry Brandt described Brandt's Bees as a "mom and pop honey bee farm."
“It’s just my wife and me. We do everything from manage and tend the bees to selling our finished product," he said. "Jane makes the candles and beeswax food wraps and the value-added stuff. And I’m responsible for the health and wellbeing of the bees.”
While a large commercial operation might have a lot of employees and some automation, such as bottling machines, Brandt's Bees is a hands-on business.
"Every jar of honey I sell passes through my hands," Brandt said.
“I can pay a little more attention to each of my colonies than somebody running perhaps thousands of hives.”
FROM HOBBY TO BUSINESS
Perry started keeping bees as a hobby 20 years ago. He's chosen not to move his hives to pollination, which he said has improved performance and is better for the overall health of the bees. And, he has placed some colonies in abandoned orchards to try to protect them from the ill effects of chemical spraying.
“The health of the honey bee is under so many stresses now. Viruses that bee colonies used to be able to deal with now can take them out,” he said.
Brandt said honey bees are focused on one task.
“A honey bee just wants to work. And that’s all a honey bee wants to do," he said. "They have a very short life this time of year. Five to six weeks from birth to death. And they work incredibly hard during that time. They should be cherished for what they do.”
Perry said honey bees provide much more than honey itself.
"The honey is actually a by-product of their most important function, which is pollination. They are responsible for one in three bites of food we take. And it's all the good stuff, as far as I'm concerned. All your stone fruits – apples, pears, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries – all the delicious stuff. I want people to know how important they are."
"Without bees, we would have a pretty bland diet," Jane Brandt said in an interview.
The Brandts enjoy sharing the responsibilities of running a small business.
“Perry does the bees. That’s his passion. And, I support the other end of the business,” Jane said.
Her end of the business includes making beeswax, used in making candles and as an ingredient in lip balm lotions and soap. She also makes food wraps which are used to cover food in place of plastic wrap.
“The food wraps are very popular,” she said. “People are aware of their plastic footprint, and they want to do what they can to reduce their use of plastic.”
She said food can be directly wrapped using the beeswax food wraps, or it can be used to cover a bowl or can. It's reusable, washable and compostable, and is made using 100 per cent cotton soaked in an emulsion of beeswax, resin and jojoba oil.
AN AMAZING WORLD
Perry wants more people to learn about the fascinating work of honey bees.
“You have to go inside a hive to see it and believe it. To see how 50 to 60 thousand bees work for one common goal. And they are selfless in what they do. It’s an amazing world inside a hive,” he said.
“I always have an extra suit or two. If somebody wants to tag along for an hour or two and see exactly what goes on inside a beehive, I have no problem taking someone along. It's fun to share."
Brandts Bees sells their products at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market and online at WFM2GO.
Editor’s note: This is part of a six-part series looking at some of the farmers featured at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market.