Previously Apiarist’s Advocate has published articles on two of Apiculture New Zealand’s national honey competition’s three judges – Maureen Conquer (May 2021 edition) and Claudine McCormick. Now we get an interesting insight into fellow judge Alessandro Tarentini, who has gone from academia in Italy, to a Dutch research farm, then beekeeping in North America, before arriving in New Zealand and again picking up the hive tool.
By Maggie James
It was back in about 2004 that Tarentini, between his Bachelor and Master degree in Food Science, developed an interest in honey. It being the topic of his dissertation thesis, he wanted to deepen his knowledge on honey.
“It was the best choice ever, because it allowed me to participate in several honey competitions,” the Italian-born honey judge says.
“I was also lucky enough to get into the beekeeping world in my early twenties, enabling me to travel around the world. Being paid for a job that I love, is the most prestigious award that a person can gain in his lifetime.”
Tarentini says he was attracted to sensory analysis in honey.
“This analysis, it helps me to understand and appreciate the final product of months of dealing with swarming prevention, varroa treatments and the other thousands of challenges a beekeeper must face during a season of hard work. It's also a way to learn more about our territory because each honey can tell a different story.”
After university studies, for one year, Tarentini lived on the educational farm “Hamster Mieden” in the Friesland region in the Netherlands. The farm had all sorts of livestock, from the well renowned Friesian dairy breed to the most common chicken. Until his arrival there were no bees, therefore he set up a two-hive apiary with hives typical of the Friesland area – boxes in a cubic shape made of polystyrene. This material is more suitable to the harsh winters of northern Europe.
“I then went to San Francisco to work with Marshall’s Honey Farm. Marshall’s were focused on harvesting honey from around the Bay Area – blends of acacia, eucalyptus, star thistle, blueberry. These boutique honeys were sold through the network of farmers markets in the Bay Area. People in the Bay were really demanding when it came to local honey,” Tarentini says.
A beekeeping season followed in Camrose, Alberta, Canada with a 4000-hive operation, Severson Honey. Severson imported a lot of package bees from New Zealand and Australia because of high losses over winter. The company was focused on canola (rapeseed) honey and pollination services.
Following the American beekeeping experiences, Tarentini moved to New Zealand and has been here for almost 10 years. He says he was “honoured” to work for Hawke’s Bay queen breeder John Dobson for three interesting years of upskilling. Following John’s retirement, Tarentini went to work for Arataki Hawke’s Bay.
Nowadays, his involvement in the industry is quite different.
“I’m a full-time support worker in a therapeutic community based on Steiner’s philosophy. Basically I work with children with intellectual disabilities, and at this stage I’m working through to get my Level 3 Certificate in Health and Wellbeing completed.”
On the honey side, Tarentini helps to organise the regional honey competition with Beekeepers Hawke’s Bay Inc. He still keeps his hand in with the hives too, as an AP2 inspector for the National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan.
“Being a beekeeper helps my honey judging,” Tarentini explains.
“I think it helps me with some scents that are related to certain beekeeping practises. Having experience in the field helps me to build a distinct ‘library’ of different aromas and flavours.”
The honey judge admits he still has plenty to learn when it comes to New Zealand honey, but says he is in good hands to broaden his knowledge.
“I’m very well aware that I have so much to learn when it comes to New Zealand honeys. I’m honoured to work with two other judges that are more experienced than me.”