We are Andrew and Moss, migratory apiarists (beekeepers) from Marraweeney in N.E Victoria. We produce and package our honey under the ‘Raw Honey’ brand name at our ‘off-grid’ property on the Strathbogie Tablelands. We are managing around 700 beehives with a particular focus on Eucalypt honey production. We manage one-third of our apiaries with organic certification. Throughout each season we migrate our bees on a journey from river flats to mountain sides following the flowering cycles of the naturally occurring native flora. Our RAW honey products are available from our many stockists throughout Victoria as well as a few farmers’ markets.
As our brand name suggests, we specialise in RAW honey. Our RAW honey is cold extracted and cold bottled for maximum retention of natural goodness and flavour. RAW honey will naturally crystallise at a fairly rapid rate. Depending on the variety, some will set to a smooth creamy texture within weeks while others may take a few months.
Some people believe that for honey to be classified as RAW it must simply be kept below around 40-45°C. We believe however for honey to be truly RAW it should be extracted and bottled at ambient temperature, therefore not adding any heat in the processing at all. This is what our customers expect and so this is what we offer.
Each extract is labelled with its floral variety(s) and apiary location, you will find this information on every jar. Each batch is also flavour sampled by us and assigned a rating (on a scale of one to five hexagons) for strength and sweetness; a scale we have developed to help consumers choose from the many varieties when tastings are not available, such as in retail stores.
Certified Organic RAW Honey
Organic certification for beekeeping and honey production adds a complex layer of policies and procedures to our operation. The rumours are all true about the mountains of paperwork involved, but we do need to make sure that we are always ticking the right boxes to be able to ensure the organic integrity of our product.
We are certified by ‘AusQual’ in accordance to the Australian ‘National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic produce. AusQual audit our operation annually to make sure we are keeping to the ‘standard’. Each batch of honey also has its labelling approved for use prior to sale.
To give an overview of the organic certification ‘rules’ for beekeeping firstly we ensure that our organic apiaries are always located at least 5km distant from flower-bearing conventional crops, orchards and urban gardens as well as other potential sources of contamination like rubbish tips and transfer stations. This excludes a lot of area especially in the spring months. Bees are managed ‘humanely’ and are placed where there is sufficient nectar and pollen availability as well as being provided with clean water for drinking. Honey is harvested ethically, ensuring the health of the colony. Synthetic anti-biotics and chemical use are strictly prohibited. Beekeeping equipment is constructed from non-toxic materials and coatings. And very importantly, because we run a parallel organic/conventional apiary business our beekeeping equipment is not shared between the divisions, our extracting and packaging equipment is thoroughly washed down between uses and everything is always labelled and recorded. Our unique organic certification number is AQ610153.
Our non-certified apiaries and their RAW honey product – Do not fret, our non-certified apiaries have a very good life too. They enjoy all of the good things that our organic bees thrive on, the only difference is that they are not always located 5km distant from farmland. In the spring these apiaries are contracted to also benefit the agriculture sector with honeybee pollination, namely with almond and canola seed pollination. Honeybees are known to be the most efficient of all the pollinators and are an invaluable service to the agriculture sector. Of course this is a two-way street, we provide strong and healthy bee colonies for a set flowing period and in return are ensured a safe environment for our bees.
We have also obtained a voluntary certification for our beekeeping and food handling practices which are audited and certified by B-Qual, an industry owned HACCP based quality assurance system.
We have built a state-of-the-art honey extraction, bottling and storage facility at our Marraweeney home-base. Although we could have had the state power lines extended to reach us we opted for the installation of a solar power system with battery storage and a backup diesel generator. This may not have been the cheaper option up-front but it guarantees us a stable power supply for our sensitive equipment and no on-going quarterly electricity bills. We also have an evacuated tube hot water service with an LPG gas booster. During the summer months we don’t use the generator so long as we can finish up extracting as the sun’s going down.
Our large roof area is our collection point for our pristine rain-water and with such a large roof-span it would take a pretty good drought for us to run out!
We volunteer our time and expertise with the North-Eastern Apiarists’ Association. We are both executive members and offer our knowledge and skills at amateur beekeeping field days run by the association as well as helping to organise the association’s annual conference and AGM and other events. We also voluntarily package honey for the Victorian Apiarists’ Associations annual fundraiser at the Royal Melbourne Show. Moss also donates her time on the honey stand as one of the daily managers for the duration of the show.
In our spare time…
We don’t exactly get much spare time. Moss tells her customers that her Saturday mornings working at the farmers’ market stand is her ‘time off’, and Andrew says he gets plenty of ‘time off’ whilst driving from home to the bees or when out driving at night to move the bees.
We do enjoy good food; fruit and veg, chestnuts and olives that we grow on our property, as well as buying locally at the farmers’ markets we attend. Our 200 acre property offers plenty of opportunity for bushwalking, mountain biking and photography… if only we had more spare time.
The winter months are our slower period. We managed to set aside 4 weeks in June/July 2017 to travel throughout New Zealand. Our excuse was of course work related; we attended an amazing beekeeping conference called ApiNZ in Rotorua and joined a beekeepers tour group and visited some local beekeeping outfits.
We have happily left our city-based professions for our rural beekeeping life. We are some of the most over-qualified young beekeepers around; Andrew has a degree in Mechanical Engineering; Moss a Degree in Interior Design (Interior Architecture) as well as a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Design. Neither of us regret the move back to the country.