With the explosion of colourful flowers in the warmer months, the Elk Valley becomes a hive of activity, with bees flying to and fro, searching for the nectar they need to create something even sweeter – locally produced honey.
Deborah Davidson is a local beekeeper. She’s the owner of Elk River Apiaries, which is a beekeeping business in the Elk Valley with beehives – or apiaries – up and down the valley.
Davidson, who is from Fernie found her way into beekeeping by accident, while searching for a summer job in university.
She describes how she was looking through postings and saw one for an experienced beekeeper at a large business.
“I was curious about what an experienced beekeeper was and what they did,” she said.
So she sent in a ‘humorous’ application, had an interview, was shown an apiary, and from there she was drawn in.
“After that day I went to the library and got every book that they had in the library on beekeeping, because I was just hooked,” said Davidson. (She got the job).
“The mystery and magic inside a beehive was mind blowing to me.”
According to Davidson there is a lot that we don’t see happening that really gripped her.
“I just didn’t consider how highly organized bees are, and how every single colony of honey bees live by the same rules,” she said.
Elk River Apiaries came to be after she’d started her life and her family.
“It’s hard to get into because it’s expensive,” Davidson said. “So I didn’t actually start my own business until after I had children and was looking to just do something on my own in 2009, and I wanted to see what kind of honey we had in Fernie.”
Turns out, there wasn’t much, so Davidson set about setting up her own business in Fernie with only four beehives, which today has 120 beehives across the Elk River producing honey.
The honey produced at Elk River Apiaries is sold at a variety of retailers around the area, as well as used by local businesses in their products, such as at Island Lake Lodge where it’s used in various items on the menu, and at the Beanpod where her honey is used in the bear bar and honeycomb gelato. Happy Cow also uses it in their own honeycomb ice cream as well – to name a handful.
While Davidson doesn’t think she’ll be in the business of maintaining and selling beehives forever, she’ll always keep some beehives.
“The honey here is amazing,” she said.
Davidson describes her honey as “pure wildflower honey” from plants such as saskatoons and huckleberries, giving her honey a flavour unique to the Elk Valley.
One thing Davidson said she wants is for this honey to always be available.
“I believe people should have access to locally produced food,” she said, because she believes it’s healthier and fresher, and in the spirit of localising food sources.
“You know what’s in it, it’s unadulterated, doesn’t go through a bunch of hands,” Davidson said.
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