Let me take you back to 10 years ago. In the winter of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home in Dunrobin. When move-in day came that spring, we discovered a colony of honeybees living in the walls of the house. At the time, we didn’t know anything about bees. We tried calling pest control companies to remove them, and the only option seemed to be extermination, which we didn’t want to do.
Come summer, my husband, Matt, decided that he was going to take the bees out of the wall. He put on a rubber rain suit, took off the siding and started to remove row after row of honeycomb and thousands of bees. He put them in a cabinet, which we moved to the woods. We thought that would be the end of our honeybee adventure…
Turning a hobby into a business
It wasn’t long after, a swarm of honeybees flew over our garage and then made a home in the walls where the previous honeybee colony had been. That’s when we called a beekeeper. She showed us how to find the queen, brought us some proper beekeeping equipment, and helped us move that swarm into a proper beehive.
Beekeeping started as a hobby, which continued for a few years. We also started rescuing honeybees out of other people’s houses. When we began selling honey at the farmers’ market, we kept meeting people who were interested in learning about beekeeping. That’s what triggered the idea to start Gees Bees Honey Company, and start beekeeping for a living.
Teaming up with the NCC
I have always loved the NCC’s urban farms, and had contacted the NCC a while back to let them know that we were interested in renting one of their properties. In July 2017, 538 River Road came up for rent, and I knew then that it was meant to be. We put in our application, and I cried with joy when we found out that we had got the property. That year, we moved into our farm, just north of Riverside South, in Honey Gables. There couldn’t be a better neighbourhood for a honey farm!
The Gees Bees farm is eight acres, and sits on the banks of the Rideau River. It includes a community-supported pollination project, where people can buy a share in one of our beehives on the farm at the start of the season. At harvest time in September, we have a “Bee Day,” where everyone comes out to meet the bees and to pick up their share of the honey. It’s a special day for us, because we get to show everyone the bees that make their honey, and they can ask questions and tour the farm.
Bees are amazing
There are a million reasons why bees are so amazing. The honey that they produce is a pretty sweet bonus, but the biggest reason is that they pollinate about one third of the fruit and vegetables that we eat. We’re proud to support the other local farms through pollination.
What we want to do next year is provide public education about the benefits of pollination. There are a lot of misconceptions about bees, and people are nervous about them, but they shouldn’t be.
If you’re interested in beekeeping, I encourage you to check out our beekeeping classes and Hive Share. Or, if you’re looking for local, raw honey produced right here in Ottawa, stop by our honey shop at our farm.
Farms in the Greenbelt are a symbol of Canada’s rural traditions, and they provide an example of how to practise viable and diverse agriculture in a near-urban setting. Interested in renting a farm in the Greenbelt? If you have experience and a solid business plan, don’t miss this unique opportunity to set up your own farm on good land just 10 minutes from downtown. Find out how.