We recently shared our first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Story featuring Forrest Farm Salmo, jumping into the ins and outs of their protein and vegetable CSA. Next up, we’re catching up with Christina Yahn and Justin Werner, two holistic beekeepers and pollinator activists based in the Slocan Valley of BC.
Through their business, White Pine Mountain Apiary, they operate a unique CSA model that includes a community supported apiary, whereby members adopt a bee hive and they do the maintenance and care over the season at their mountain apiary. Harvest is then shared among each member!
Read on to learn more about this creative way to support invaluable pollinators and local farmers! Find more information about how to sponsor a hive here on their website.
Why did you choose the CSA model?
We decided to go with a CSA model for a variety of reasons. First of all it’s an incredible way to engage with the community and have our sponsors feel like they are a part of what’s happening in the Apiary. In our case, this model has afforded us and our members the ability to purchase well established bees directly from another local beekeeper. Without the ability to use this model it would take us several years to build up to this level of offering community involvement.
In a regular apiary business model the bulk of income comes at the end of the season. With CSA we are privileged with an influx of income at the beginning of the season to make the necessary improvements and care for the bees. Each consecutive season our members help us to maintain and expand healthy bee colonies of which the benefits we all enjoy.
What does operating your CSA entail?
We are unique in our CSA programme in that our members sponsor a colony of Honey bees in our Apiary. This is a one time payment that purchases the bees. We maintain the bees using holistic and natural methods and at the end of the season we divide up the shares of the harvest. For each consecutive year the members pay a small annual maintenance fee for their share of the harvest.
Not only do we offer Honey to our members, they are gifted value added products that we hand craft such as: Beeswax Candles, Propolis tinctures & salves, Honey Body scrubs, and much more to come. The members receive several gift boxes of these items through the season. We also offer them a private beekeeping session with their beehive each season (for full sponsors) and admission to 3 of our workshops in the apiary (for both full and 1/2 sponsors).
What are some of the benefits of CSAs for communities?
CSAs can play a vital role in integrating the relationships between consumers and farmers, thus expanding our awareness of the origin of our food and the hard work that goes into its production. They help stimulate the local economy, bolstering an environment that can solidify food security through supporting local food producers. They are also exciting for the participants receiving boxes of local produce.
What do you want people to know about your business/CSA?
Bees face many challenges including colony collapse, pest and disease to pesticide exposure and stress from travel to pollinating industrial food production. There is another hit to Canadian beekeeping; recently with Covid 19 travel restrictions bee packages that are shipped to Canada to replace winter losses are not arriving. This will impact the ability to pollinate our Canadian farms and potentially effect food security in Canada. It emphasizes the need more than ever for strong, local and sustainable bee genetics.
Our primary goal in this project is to expand our apiary and innovate ways to improve the survival of Canadian Honeybees. Our native pollinators are also suffering from habitat losses and chemical spraying, by planting a surplus of forage and creating habitat for wild pollinators we aim to support our native pollinator friends as well. Bees are incredible, intelligent and the key to our food security.
Our business is not just about honey, we have a variety of products containing gifts from the bees. Bee products have been used medicinally for centuries and continue to offer insights of use through continued research in modern times. We have an online store where you can purchase these products. We are launching a subscription box in the near future as well.
What is different about CSAs and other ways people connect with farmers?
Too often in the age of convenience people are disconnected from the source of their food. CSA is an opportunity to establish a relationship with your farmer, taste truly local fresh foods and tune into the seasonal offerings.
What do you like about farming in the Kootenays?
Farming in the Kootenays has its challenges such as shorter and extreme seasons; however, we are incredibly appreciative for how supportive the community is. With relation to beekeeping in the Kootenays, we are blessed to be on land that is surrounded by untouched forests away from the dangers posed to bees from pesticides and herbicides.
GOT LAND? WANT LAND?
Through the B.C. Land Matching Program, Young Agrarians is offering support to farmers looking for land for their farm business and landowners looking for farmers to farm their land. You can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.