Arriving at Ferguson Apiaries you see a quaint farm house and out buildings nestled in trees and set just back off the road. Traveling from Goderich my GPS found a very quick route that got me to the apiary just outside of Hensall in under 30 minutes, a nice little jaunt on a beautiful Summer day. A large sign placed up on the road guided us into the driveway. Pulling the car up to the front of the apiary store we were greeted by a sweet yellow sign and a little cartoon bee welcoming us to the Honey House.
Upon entering the Honey House we were greeted warmly by Rosemary Ferguson, wife of Bill Ferguson, they own Ferguson apiaries, I guess that makes her the true Queen Bee. Rosemary was warm and welcoming, encouraging us to wander the shop. The store is stocked full of honey, bees wax, candles, pollen, snacks, hand creams, remedies, and such things I didn't even know came from bees. My boys were given small bear shaped bottles of honey upon arriving and they were thrilled to carry these around and slurp from them with glee. Even my very particular four year old was happily licking away at the top of his little honey bear.
The Honey House is open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it was hopping when we arrived around 2 in the afternoon. Everyone seemed to know of this lovely gem that I had newly found out about. People were leaving with large buckets of honey, small packets of honey butter, jam, pollen, ans all sorts of goodies. Rosemary let us investigate the shop for a bit and then asked if I'd like to "Talk to the men" now. I loved this, it reminded me of my own farmer grandparents and how my grandmother would "Call the men in" for lunch. She went off to find them and it made me giggle when in consternation she said they'd gone missing and she'd have to phone them. While she called them she welcomed us into the packing area of the business which was a large room with boxes and tables to ship honey and Queens out across the country. Very shortly Bill and Matt appeared, heeding the summons of the Queen Bee, and happy to answer our questions about beekeeping.
Bill Ferguson is owner, operator, and head Bee Keeper at Ferguson's. He has been bee keeping for over fifty years and has owned Ferguson's Apiaries since 1967. Matt, his son and affiliate Bee Keeper, has recently moved back to the area and helps run the operation alongside his parents. Bill and Matt were so full of information and knowledge, you know a person is passionate about what they do when they share so openly and with such joy about their vocation. Bill has been interested in bees since he was very young and went out to a hive with his aunt at age 5 without negative results. Later on in childhood he was stung while playing in the grass and was not too bothered by the event, naturally this leads a man to a life of bee keeping. In his teens Bill's father told him that if he wanted to leave school he needed to have a profession. Bill had already become more interested in bee keeping at this time, he and friend had purchased some packages from Chester Bee Supplies and were already embarking on the adventure of keeping bees. Bill followed his passion and began working for a local apiary which he later took on as his own and called Ferguson Apiaries. He now has approximately 80 hives.
Speaking with Bill about bees is like speaking to a father about his children, he knows everything about them and is so passionate about their well being. We spoke of how some chemicals are harming bees and what new studies are showing, I felt I was speaking to a biologist and professor on the matter, Bill was so informative. In the packing room we were shown some of the queen bees that Ferguson's ships all over North America. Thousands of queens going off to the United Sates, where bee keepers are looking to Canada as inspiration as they work to improve on their current process and practices there.
We learned that Ferguson's has been shipping queen bees for about 35 years and that there are about 20 licensed queen bee breeders in Ontario. Bill breeds and keeps Buckfast Bees which are a breed of bee that were originated in England by Brother Adam at Buckfast Abby in 1908. These bees were bred to be disease resistant, good honey producers, and of gentle demeanor. Bill keeps a close eye on his bees making sure that the breeding bees do not become too inbred or undesirable qualities may begin to crop up again.
After learning all about these amazing creatures and the work that goes into breeding and keeping them around North America, we were able to see the honey processing room where the honey is extracted form the hive. The boys were fascinated by the process and seeing all of the honey combs. They were very excited to know we could purchase honey still in the honey comb to bring home and enjoy.
At the end of our visit I felt I had been granted such a gift of knowledge that I never would have had before. Growing up as a farmer's daughter I appreciate the passion, science, and intricate knowledge that goes into the everyday practice of farming and producing food. Today Bill and his family re-instilled that awe I have in me for this type of work. It truly is a passion. We left Ferguson Apiaries with a bounty of bee products and more than I ever expected.
We are incredibly grateful to our bee keepers of Ontario and Canada for helping to keep us healthy, keep bees around, and for keeping a finger on the pulse of nature by observing our favourite fuzzy pollinator friends. A very special thanks to Bill, Rosemary and Matt Ferguson for making our visit incredibly special and memorable. This is one of those adventures that one never forgets. We'll be back soon for more honey and candles! Ferguson Apiaries is part of the Taste of Huron tours. If you are planning a tour with friends this year make sure you check out this local gem. You will not be disappointed, by the honey or the service!
Make sure you check out Ferguson's online too: http://fergusonapiaries.on.ca/