• Patrick Dawkins

Can Apiculture Meet the Need?

Inspired by a presentation from Meat the Need founder Wayne Langford, Raglan beekeepers Hannah and Rory O’Brien hope to support beekeepers in helping New Zealanders in need – but they will need the assistance of the wider apiculture industry. The couple behind Hunt and Gather Bee Co. hope honey producers, packers, packaging and label suppliers, and even freight companies can unite to help deliver a regular supply of honey for charitable good.

“I've been watching Wayne on social media and thinking, oh man, this guy's got some energy. He's getting stuff done,” says Hannah O’Brien of Langford, a Golden Bay dairy farmer who as ‘YOLOfarmer’ has a following of over 125,000 people across various social media platforms.

Hunt and Gather Bee Co owners and beekeepers Hannah and Rory O’Brien are hopeful that the apiculture industry can pull together to supply honey to New Zealand’s foodbanks by partnering with Meat the Need charity.

Langford’s Meat the Need charity has been operating since 2020 and acts as a conduit between farmers and New Zealanders with food scarcity. It has helped bring almost 800,000 mincemeat meals to the dinner tables of Kiwis in need. They now also supply milk to foodbanks across the country, made available by farmers who supply Fonterra and Miraka.

After attending a conference where Langford spoke about the work of the charity, the O’Briens have been motivated to help add honey to Meat the Need’s offerings.

“We know that there are people with excess honey, that perhaps doesn’t fit with what the market wants. This could be an opportunity to turn that into a positive for someone else,” O’Brien says.

“Also, we are a really unique primary industry in the way that everyones kind of in competition with each other, and kind of not. Unlike pastoral farmers, many of who supply Silver Fern Farms or Fonterra and work together, as honey producers there's not much that we can all do together that's non-competitive. So, something like this could be a good reason to get people around a table and work towards something that makes everyone feel good. It isn’t a threat to anyone, but is positive.”

The O’Briens have spoken to Langford, who is general manager of the charity. They say he has been very receptive to the idea, if the honey industry can provide a regular supply of potted honey, to food safety standards. From there, Meat the Need can take care of the logistics of supplying food banks.

Some honey producers or packers already supply food banks, but O’Brien says it is her understanding that this is sometimes sporadic – often when an export order falls over. What they hope to achieve through Meat the Need is improved logistics, where a regular supply could be guaranteed so food banks can incorporate honey into their supply plans.

“I think there's probably two things we can offer. First, a more centralised distribution of honey so that food banks know what's coming and when. That way they can plan a bit better for consistent supply. Also, we can offer people without a brand, who might want to donate a couple of buckets, or a barrel, or however much honey. It might be honey they aren't shifting, potentially costing them more on storage than what they'll make from it. It would be a way that they can contribute, help others, and get some of that good feeling, because it's mostly people who have a brand and can pack and label it who are donating now,” O’Brien says.

She is well aware that it could be honey that is deemed flawed in some manner, or not fit for market, that beekeepers might be more willing to offer up free of charge. Therefore, specifications for honey which is donated will need to be determined, as well as a blending and packing plan, she says.

It is predicted that 14 percent of New Zealanders face food insecurity – defined as a lack of access to an adequate quality and quantity of nutritious food.

A rough goal of making available 0.1% (equal to around 20 tonne) of the approximately 20,500 tonne national honey crop has been floated by the O’Briens following discussions with Meat the Need. The charity is confident their distribution channels can get the honey to those who need it, if the apiculture industry can make it available.

With not just honey supply, but testing, packaging, labelling and freight to consider, it will take a committed effort from a range of stakeholders to bring the supply together. Therefore, at this stage the O’Briens are simply calling on anyone in the industry who thinks they might be able to contribute product or services to reach out so that a database and contact list can be established.

“What they need from us is to pull together the honey and get it sorted into jars, then they (Meat the Need) can take over from there,” O’Brien says, adding, “It could be a bit of a big job, but if no one starts, then nothing gets achieved, does it? So, we'll give it a go.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the project, how to donate honey or other products and services should contact Hannah and Rory O’Brien by emailing hannah@huntandgatherbeeco.com



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