The Producers...Hoyle's Honey Navestock Side
PUBLISHED: 22:34 21 July 2014 | UPDATED: 22:34 21 July 2014
RICHARD and Sarah Hoyle began beekeeping 10 years ago as a hobby to run alongside the family business of arable farming, but within that time the hobby has grown to become a business in its own right. Farming in Navestock Side for more than 35 years, the couple have used their knowledge and responsible farming methods to position their bees onto their own farm and neighbouring farms to allow the bees to forage for the very best pollen and nectar.
Richard explains: ‘A dear friend of ours, who used to work on the farm, died and I found his derelict hives under some brambles and I thought it would be really nice to get some bees back at the cottage here. I met a beekeeper at the local fete and asked him if he would teach me about beekeeping and he gave me a couple of colonies.’
The beekeeper eventually decided to retire and at the time had almost 30 colonies, so Richard took them over. ‘I had to decide whether to keep it as a hobby or to get big enough to employ somebody. As us farmers are always fairly enterprising, I thought it would be a good bit of diversification, so we converted some old offices into a production facility for the honey and expanded the colonies.’
The production of honey depends on how far the bees have to fly and whether there’s been any rain. ‘You get a honey flow after the rain,’ adds Richard.
Beekeepers have a love/hate relationship with the farmer due to crop spraying. But most farmers actually want bees on their land, so Richard acts as a go between as he knows most of the farmers in Essex and he’s able to put hives onto neighbouring farms. Hoyle’s also pollinate for a company who grow borage for medicinal purposes. ‘Borage is grown to extract omega oil. For me it also means I’m able to move the bees from the rape to the beans and then on to the borage giving us three crops per year.’
At the moment the Hoyle’s have 300 working colonies with a plan to move to between 600 and 800 in 2015. So has Richard ever been stung? ‘Bees will sting, but I never go without proper equipment. However I have been stung lots of times and it still hurts.’
Hoyle’s Pure English Honey is stocked locally at Calcott Hall Farm Shop and The Food Company at Mark’s Tey, and has just been asked to supply the Chelmsford Star Co-op Group which includes 39 stores. ‘We are members of Tastes of Anglia and we are very thankful to Robert Gunn who put us in contact with the Co-op.’ Hoyle’s also has an online shop via its website.
Before having his own bees, Richard confesses to not really liking honey. ‘Our honey is much lighter in taste as its pure; I always thought honey tasted like an old lady’s sock drawer, very heavily scented! Pure English Honey is raw as its not been heated to high temperatures to pasteurise it. When you do that, you take out the natural antibacterial properties.’
Mass-produced honey can also be blended using sugar syrup and honey from non EU countries. ‘Ours is pure, using local crops for our bees to pollinate. There is a lot of fake honey in the marketplace badged up as Manuka honey. Did you know there is more Manuka honey sold in the world than is actually produced in New Zealand? All beekeepers are very passionate about their hives and the honey they produce.’
Looking ahead, Richard and Sarah have also entered their Borage Honey into the Great Taste Awards, so they are keeping everything crossed for further success.