Urban beekeeper, Vicky Simonson, can be found selling her raw honey at our market on most Sundays.
Where did you grow up?
I’m a real Westie. First in Huia, then we moved to Te Atatu when I was a teenager. I have been there ever since.
What do you love about West Auckland?
The people of course - I love the community and have strong roots here. I love the beaches and spend a lot of time walking our dog, Indy, at Kakamatua Inlet, near Cornwallis. When I was younger the bushwalks were big for me.
How did you get into keeping bees?
We have one of the last quarter-acre sections in our area, with lots of fruit trees. We started with a couple of hives to bring bees in for our trees and veggie garden.
How many hives do you have now?
Seventy! Each spring there is the potential to make a new hive when they swarm, we split hives to try and prevent swarming, as part time beekeepers seventy is our manageable limit. We also get calls from people who spot swarms and they are always relieved when we re-home swarming bees.
Where are your hives?
The first place we spread was a friend’s orchard in Oratia, and now we also set up hives in backyards around West Auckland. People like having bees in their backyard, pollinating their trees and gardens. And they get some honey without the hard work.
So honey is a highly seasonal business
Yes - our lives are ruled by the bee seasons. At the moment we are wintering down the hives in preparation for winter. When spring arrives they will start getting very buzzy - the new bees hatch and the whole season starts again
How do you harvest the honey?
It's a labour-intensive process. The frames from the hives are spun in a honey extractor, then the honey is sieved before it goes into jars. We make sure that we leave plenty of honey for the bees to eat over winter. The bees work hard to produce the honey, and we reckon that they deserve to reap the benefits of their hard work. All our hives are numbered and we harvest each hive separately so that you can tell, from the number on the jar, which hive the honey comes from.
Wow - that is ultimate traceability. Do any customers ask for honey from specific hives?
Actually a few do. There are alot of anecdotal reports of hyperlocal raw honey helping hayfever sufferers. Some of our customers request honey from hives close to their home and they say it helps. I just wish someone would do formal research to confirm this.
How do you use honey?
We use honey for everything. The kids have honey on their Weetbix. If they have a sore throat, I give them honey. I use it in baking. It makes a great face mask, and I usually have a honey, ginger and lemon drink on the go for most of the day. I make wax wraps and we use beeswax for coating the frames in the hive ready for a new colony.
How does the market fit into your business?
It’s important for people to have a chance to taste the different honeys because they are all really different. I love being able to talk to people about what goes into producing the honey. And I really enjoy the vibe of the market - its a fun place to hang out on a Sunday morning.
You have five young children, a dog, and your husband is a builder - how do you fit this all in?
Yes, we have five children aged 2 to 12 and they are all such individuals. It is super busy but I don’t sweat the small stuff and I enjoy the crazy fun of family life. And we get a lot of support from friends and family which makes it all possible.
Do you ever get a chance to have time off?
Not much but we like to go out fishing when we can, or visit the extended family’s bach. And we have a family trip planned to Queenstown at the end of the year.
As published in Ponsonby News : May 2021