Producing organic honey in Alberta
Drizzled into tea or spread onto toast, honey is best known as a sweet treat. But there's so much more beneath its sticky surface, including B vitamins, copper, magnesium and some powerful antioxidants. And it's one of the most sustainable and ethical buys on the shelf.
No one knows this better than the beekeepers in Alberta's Peace River region, credited with producing the whitest honey in the world -- thick, extra sweet but mild in flavour. Alberta's Wolfe Honey Company, owned by Sharon and Gilbert Wolfe, is Canada's largest producer of organic honey, offering up the local gooey goods wrapped in an earth-friendly little pouch.
Albertans refer to the Peace River region of the province as "an oasis in the north." This amazingly lush area is located about 400 kilometres north of Edmonton, chillingly close to subarctic territory.
Summer here may be short, but its long days nurture the seemingly endless fields of alfalfa, clover and canola needed to produce one-third of Alberta's honey -- a $55 million annual industry. Honey may be big business, but it's often conducted in small towns. The Wolfe Honey Company sits at the heart of the Peace River region, in a little hamlet called Guy (population: 40).
Local boy makes good
In Alberta, where 40 percent of the country's honey is made, beekeeping is a matter of pride. At age 14, Gilbert Wolfe convinced his father to help him buy 50 beehives to produce and sell his own honey as a part-time job. Like most commercial beekeepers, Wolfe established himself by selling honey to a cooperative that combines, processes and packages it under one label.
However, he has grown his company to include 25,000 square feet of certified organic processing space to make Honey Bunny, his own exclusive line. Wolfe's 5,000 hives currently produce more than 500,000 pounds of organic honey.
It may be a huge harvest, but this family company is committed to keeping its production local, sustainable and accessible. Terry Greidanus, the president of the Beekeepers Commission of Alberta, credits the province's success in the industry to farmers and business owners who innovate and are willing to take risks.
This includes the Wolfe family, who have expanded their line of products to include barbecue sauces, ketchup and even lip balm popping up on shelves across the country. They wanted their Honey Bunny packaging to not only stand out on shelves but also reflect the sustainable nature of the product they sell.
Photography, Alberta Tourism, iStockphoto and Wolfe Honey Company.