A passion for bees and food security is reflected in the work of Beechworth Honey's Founder and Co-Director, Jodie Goldsworthy. An advocate for actions that will improve the sustainability of the Australian Bee Keeping Industry, we spoke to Jodie to discuss all things sweet and sustainable for World Bee Day.
Hi Beechworth Honey! Please tell us about your inspiring family business.
My family’s connection to bees and honey started back in the 1880s when my great grandfather, Benjamin Robinson, was mining for gold at Beechworth during Australia’s heady gold rush days.
Benjamin realised a better living could be made from liquid gold (honey) than from solid gold. He soon became an expert apiarist and spent his life chasing blossom for his bees in the surrounding hills and eucalypt forests around Beechworth.
Steve [Jodie's husband] and I purchased our bees in 1992 and developed the Beechworth Honey label soon after. In 1999 we formed Beechworth Honey and our honey can now be purchased across Australia and in many other countries. We are proud of our honey but also of the incredible Australian beekeeping industry who continue to produce pure, exceptionally high quality honey.
As 4th Generation Beekeepers, what are your earliest memories of caring for bees and working amongst the hives?
I grew to love the trees at an early age - each of them unique and different. As kids, my brother and I spent countless hours in the forests just out of reach of the hives whilst Mum and Dad worked with the bees.
I loved studying nature looking at the bark, the leaves, the buds, flowers and fruits of the trees - each one giving their own clue as to the type of tree and the type of honey the bees would produce.
Why is shopping Australian honey so important from a sustainable and ethical point of view?
Bees are mysterious and beautiful little creatures and are the keystone species on which our food security depends. Beekeepers keep bees for vital pollination services across Australia’s agricultural food sector.
The value of pollination services provided by Australian honeybees is $14.2 billion. Worldwide, the plantings of food crops requiring bee pollination are outpacing the growth in bee numbers.
Through buying Australian honey you are making an investment in sustaining the Australian beekeeping industry and the pollination of fresh food; one that will keep the cost of our fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds affordable into the future.
This will ultimately prevent the need for mass importation of the delicious foods that Australia currently grows and enjoys.
How have you made changes over the years to make your business more transparent and sustainable?
Beechworth Honey has driven many initiatives over the past 25 years focused on bee health and beekeeper sustainability but we felt the need to do more.
We are currently in an intense learning phase to understand the issues and opportunities around a circular economy approach to packaging. Our aim is to understand how we can increase our percentage of reused and recycled materials in our jars, labels and cartons.
Beekeepers are the lifeblood of our business. We are committed to improving industry viability through long term beekeeper relationships, continued advocacy, research and education to protect bees and beekeepers for food security.
Last year Beechworth Honey joined the global environmental movement, 1% for the Planet. One percent of the global sales revenue of our Bee Cause Range goes to our not-for-profit partners who support the environment, bees and biodiversity.
What prompted you to begin Bee Cause 25 years ago?
At Beechworth Honey we are absolutely passionate about Australia’s honeybees. We’ve spent large amounts of time lobbying for bees and beekeepers and trying to position our industry to be sustainable for the future.
We created Bee Cause to help fund important research that helps bees, the environment and biodiversity. Bee Cause is also about education and the impact that honeybees have on our food security through their pollination services.
For Steve and I, Bee Cause is about being able to look our grandchildren and great grandchildren (we don’t have any yet!) in the eye and say “we did what we could on our watch to help give bees a better future and to try to ensure you have a secure food future because you have enough healthy bees to pollinate your food”.
Beechworth Honey is a proud member of 1% for the Planet, a global alliance of businesses and individuals that support environmental solutions through everyday actions.
1% of the global sales revenue of Bee Cause Honey goes to our not-for-profit partners that support bees, the environment and sustainable communities. Our giving is audited and certified through 1% for the Planet and we join thousands of other businesses who together have contributed over $320 million to environmental solutions.
We are big advocates of Tree Planting for the planet, and donate seedlings with every online purchase- how is your Beechworth Honey 'Bee Arboretum' project progressing?
We are very passionate about trees and our newly planted Bee Arboretum. As part of our commitment to planting 10,000 Trees for Bees over the next 3 years, we planted a specialist patch of pollinator-friendly Australian trees and shrubs last winter and are getting ready to plant more trees in June and July this year.
We are calling this patch our 'Bee Arboretum'. It’s situated about 4 kms to the west of Beechworth on a dedicated 6 hectare (15 acre) plot of land secured for this purpose. It contains about 40 species of native plants that are chosen to best support bees and pollinators and will contain around 3000 trees and shrubs when fully planted.
The difficulties of last years Australian Bushfires combined with Covid19 have been detrimental to so many- how did they affect your bees and business?
Prior to the 2019/2020 bushfires, the beekeeping industry worked for many months to keep bees out of areas that were likely to be most affected by the fires. Managed bee colonies are taken care of by the beekeeper at every opportunity and can, in most circumstances, be moved from fire threatened areas. However there were still significant losses of hives across Australia, especially down the east coast.
The impact of the fires on bushland and the flora which bees use for honey production has been significant, which will result in reduced honey availability in the future from those areas.
Whilst we were grappling with devastating fires, the COVID 19 pandemic hit our regional communities very hard. We have been fortunate that no cases of the virus have been reported in our region but our tourism businesses had a very tough year. We are so grateful that visitors are now able to return and our Honey Shop is busier than ever.
Bees are in danger. What role do bees play in our ecosystem and how can we do our part to protect bees?
All pollinators are in danger. Never before have the impacts of human intervention with our land impacted so keenly on insects of all sorts. Honeybees are fortunate that they have beekeepers to advocate for them but in Australia there are also over 2000 species of native bees that also need our help. Bees of all sorts co-exist with other pollinators and we know that the healthiest landscapes are those that sustain a range of pollinators.
We can all do our part to plant more bee-friendly plants in our gardens, streets, parks and neighbourhoods. An abundance of flowers across all times of the year are what bees need for their pollen and nectar supplies. We can also live lightly and ensure we don’t use pesticides. Growing your own food and some food for the pollinators, if you can, helps so much to lighten our footprint and control all the inputs which provide a healthier ecosystem for bees and other pollinators.
What can local communities do to help?
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to help bees is to provide sources of nectar and pollen in your garden. Plants and pollinators coexist beautifully in nature. Planting a bee-friendly garden that supports pollinators is joyful and very rewarding. Not only will your garden be full of colour, but it will also be full of bees, birds and butterflies.
Communities can work together to plant insect friendly corridors and patches in their urban or regional settings. Here in Beechworth, our local Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability Group are working with farmers to plant bee friendly trees on their properties. Bee Cause is providing the trees and stakes for these trees as part of our 1% for the Planet membership. We hope to reach our goal of 10,000 trees in the ground by next year as part of these community tree planting efforts.
We’d love to know what is your favourite way to use honey? Any secret favourite recipes you can share?
Home made crumpets are an absolute favourite in our household. Hot buttered crumpets with honey are hard to beat, especially on cold winter mornings in Beechworth!