I never imagined I would become a beekeeper. I recall doing a career prospects form at school. The results came in and, based on my answers I was to become a demolition instructor. Somehow, looking back, that would have been less surprising. On the other hand, now that this is what I’m doing, it makes perfect sense and in a way it feels natural to have arrived at this point.
The opportunity to become a bee farming apprentice came about quite suddenly. I was a gardener in London at the time and was offered a chance to join the BFA/Rowse apprenticeship scheme with the Scottish Bee Company as my employer. In order to do this I would need to move to Scotland. It was a big life change, but the opportunity seemed so random and unique I felt I couldn’t say no.
Prior to starting the course I had no idea that bee farming was a viable career opportunity. I only knew of beekeeping as a hobby and even then, only vaguely. However, I had always been interested in the relationship between pollinators and plants due to my gardening and for some time had become increasingly interested in environmental issues including the impact of food production on the natural world.
I came onto the apprenticeship scheme as a complete novice and at the first workshop down in Surrey I remember feeling quite intimidated by the other apprentices who seemed to have at least some experience working with a hive. However I quickly got over this. The enthusiasm of my tutors and fellow apprentices was infectious. And we really did start from scratch. I always felt comfortable asking questions (not a situation I had experienced at school).
Thinking back to that first session and how little I knew, compared to the experiences I’ve had since and what I know now is staggering. Three seasons in and I see that the apprenticeship scheme has been a revelation to me. The combination of classroom learning over the winter months, alongside the practical day to day graft of a beekeeping season is a fantastic way of understanding the career potential of bee farming as well as understanding the bees themselves.
I realise now what opportunities for my future there are linked to the world of bees. I could produce high quality honey, rear queens, teach or work with wider environmental issues or even combine all these. On my journey one area I’ve become particularly interested in is how to work with and encourage other pollinators and wildlife alongside the beekeeping and how to create a greener bee farming business. I feel there is a lot that can be explored here.
The apprenticeship has opened up a world for me that I didn’t really know existed. My engagement with the natural world started with gardening but has been enhanced by my three years bee farming. The knowledge and confidence I have to look after colonies of bees is quite amazing to me. There have of course been challenges along the way and it hasn’t always been easy, but those challenges have been important in my development.
For me, the biggest indicator of the apprenticeship’s success is the fact that I want to keep bee farming next year. The course has given me knowledge, confidence and a renewed connection with the world around me. My head is full of ideas which is really exciting to me and I look forward to seeing what happens next.