Waikato Farming Lifestyles - Sweeter Than Honey

In the May 2014 Waikato Farming Lifestyles has an article on Sweetree Honey - 'One hundred and fifty hives generate a sweet second income stream for boutique Waikato apiarists Martin and Stephanie Lynch of Sweetree Honey.'

Upon shifting to their Horsham Downs lifestyle block in 2002, the couple decided that instead of grazing cattle, they would graze a few extra bees and just over a decade on, a lifelong hobby for Martin has grown into a thriving business.

The small-scale operation gave rise to Martin leaving his full-time corporate role to start his own energy management consulting business and gave Stephanie the opportunity to be a stay-at-home Mum for Daniel, 11 and Matthew, 9 while enjoying the challenge and satisfaction of running a small business.

“Martin learnt about beekeeping from his Dad, who kept hives at their Ohinewai home, and he inherited the hives after his Dad passed away,” says Stephanie. “Martin continued to be a hobby beekeeper for years before we eventually moved to Horsham Downs.

“We started with the three original hives and gradually increased the number to 40, focusing at that stage on collecting bee pollen and selling it directly to Comvita. In 2007, together with our new neighbours James and Miriam Driscoll, we decided to step up the beekeeping operation and our small commercial business, Vitality Bee Products Ltd, and eventually Sweetree Honey, was born.”

Over the next few years, while Martin and James handled the physical side of beekeeping and Stephanie and Miriam focused on business and product development, the number of hives and demand for Sweetree Honey grew and in 2009 Martin and Stephanie purchased James and Miriam’s share of the business. 

As artisan producers of bee products, they are involved in every aspect of the business from bee husbandry, to harvesting, processing, packaging and point of sale and they strive to maintain the natural properties of their product.

The unblended honeys reflect the five main apiary sites from which they are harvested and are based on the local area and season, rather than a single flower source. Stephanie says that people who try Sweetree honey often comment how it tastes like the honey they used to have when they were young. 

Sweetree honey is a raw, unpasteurised honey with a HMF level typically less than 4mg/kg. This means that it is not damaged by heating during processing and retains the same goodness and natural enzymes present in freshly harvested honey. Samples of Sweetree honey are regularly tested by Hill Laboratories.

“People have become a lot more aware of where their food is coming from and how it’s processed and they are not afraid to ask questions,” adds Stephanie, who has a strong interest in food and nutrition. “These days, people are much more likely to seek out speciality products and shop in specialty stores.” 

Looking ahead, Martin and Stephanie intend to to gradually build their hives up to about 250 but say that any more would be hard to manage as secondary income, alongside Martin’s consultancy business.

“Healthy hives and tight quality control are important to us and the big thing that spurs us on is our customers’ feedback — that’s the motivating factor.

When people tell us how yummy our honey is or how much better they feel since taking bee pollen, then we know we’re doing the right thing.”

Sweetree honey and bee pollen and other specialty goods are available from their website, selected retail stores and the Hamilton Farmers Market.

Originally published in Waikato Farming Lifestyles, May 2014


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