So­me­thing’s buz­zing in Cur­ran


Jill Da­vies, ow­ner and ope­ra­tor of Buzzz Honey Pro­ducts.

Bees are now of­fi­cial­ly on the en­dan­ge­red spe­cies’ list and that should scare honey lo­vers but al­so the agri­cul­ture sec­tor of the eco­no­my.

“Na­tive pol­li­na­tors in the US pro­vide es­sen­tial pol­li­na­tion ser­vices to agri­cul­ture which are va­lued at more than US $9 bil­lion an­nual­ly,” said Eric Lee-Mä­der, pro­gram di­rec­tor at the Xerces So­cie­ty, the non-pro­fit or­ga­ni­sa­tion that pe­ti­tio­ned the US go­vern­ment to la­bel the bees as en­dan­ge­red, du­ring a recent in­ter­view with CNN. The steep de­cline in bee po­pu­la­tion could mean, in a fo­re­seeable fu­ture, that pro­ducts like cof­fee could di­sap­pear. There are ma­ny rea­sons why the bees are dying at an alar­ming rate; two of them are af­fec­ting a lo­cal bee­kee­per.

Jill Da­vies is the ow­ner of Buzzz Honey Pro­ducts ba­sed in Cur­ran and has seen firs­thand what pa­ra­sites and pes­ti­cides can do to a bee co­lo­ny. “I once found a whole hive being de­ci­ma­ted. The bees were all on their back with their tongue sti­cking out, a si­gn that they were poi­so­ned. By in­ges­ting harm­ful pes­ti­cides, the bees wea­ken the hive which is then ea­sier for pa­ra­sites, like mites, to in­fect the bees. It’s a vi­cious cycle.”

Jill Da­vies and her sis­ter Kath­leen Da­vies ope­rate se­ven hives in Cur­ran and pro­duce over 200 pounds of honey a year. Jill Da­vies sells most of the honey and uses the rest, along with the wax to create all-na­tu­ral beau­ty pro­ducts. A ve­te­ri­na­rian tech­no­lo­gist by trade, she star­ted her hob­by over se­ven years ago ma­king her pro­ducts out of a ma­ke­shift kit­chen. “I star­ted out ma­king all kinds of pro­ducts just for fun, but I rea­li­sed that people ac­tual­ly li­ked my stuff and that there was a need for it.”

In 2009, Da­vies was figh­ting breast can­cer and the medical staff had told her to use ca­len­du­la cream to prevent burns. She had to go all the way to To­ron­to to ac­quire the cream. Seeing the be­ne­fits of the cream firs­thand she de­ci­ded to grow her own ca­len­du­la flo­wers and ex­tract the ac­tive in­gre­dients and in­cor­po­rate it in all of her beau­ty pro­ducts. The bees can al­so feed on the flo­wers.

Jill Da­vies is part of a com­mu­ni­ty of hob­by and organic far­mers in Pres­cott Rus­sell who put their lands to work to create niche bu­si­nesses. But the co­exis­tence bet­ween in­dus­trial far­ming and organic lo­cal far­ming is a com­pli­ca­ted re­la­tion­ship, not to men­tion hea­vy in­dus­tries trying to set­tle them­selves next to agri­cul­tu­ral lands.

What is the fu­ture of our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties? Ma­ny young fa­mi­lies are lea­ving ur­ban set­tings, tra­ding proxi­mi­ty to their work for a ru­ral li­fe­style. In turn, these hob­by far­mers work their land to create lo­cal and organic pro­ducts and par­ti­ci­pate in di­ver­si­fying the avai­lable pro­duce to the com­mu­ni­ty. Jill and Kath­leen Da­vies sell their pro­ducts in far­mers’ mar­kets in Ot­ta­wa and Cum­ber­land and through the Web.

—pho­to Maxime Myre

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