Drive with your windows open in mid-summer along Highway 49 east and you can’t miss the sweet aromas of blooming clover. The area around Falher is prime honey country. It’s here that Charles Paradis found a new home in Girouxville for his bees, transporting them by train from St. Hughes, Quebec in the 1950’s. Now, Danny, a seventh-generation beekeeper, and Ginette Paradis carry on the family tradition with Paradis Valley Honey near Watino.
They bought an existing apiary in 2003. “I was pregnant with our second child, we were growing as a family, there was a lot of learning to do,” says Ginette.
“Our vision has grown immensely. Then we were just beekeepers producing honey. Now we are passionate about not only the bees and the honey, but the community and education and spreading our values,” says Ginette.
Last year they discovered that Alberta Open Farm Days was an ideal way to do this.
“We had no idea about Open Farm Days. Somebody contacted my husband directly. He said ‘sure!’ We were curious and we had a willingness to use services to help us promote. The ag industry is tough when you are doing it on your own,” she says.
“It was awesome! It opened our eyes to the need for greater agri-tourism experiences in the region. We had never really opened our doors to the public, we went in blind and were not sure how many people to expect.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the distance people would travel to learn about what we were doing. People asked to book tours. We are developing a portfolio with facility tours and bee health talks and also an original beekeeping experience—we’ll suit you up and take you out to the hive,” says Ginette.
“Our café was inspired by Open Farm Days. We learned we needed to give visitors more than one reason to show up,” she says.
“We found out during Open Farm Days that visitors were fascinated by the honey extraction process. We installed an observation window in the café so people can watch. That has been getting a lot of attention.”
Her favourite takeaway from Open Farm Days? The kids.
“Seeing the children and youth come in and be excited about agriculture. Being inspired by their faces, their big smiles. Their questions; ‘Can I bring my class here? Can I come back? Can I work here when I’m old enough’? It gave us hope.
Second favourite? Danny being stung.
“During the tour, Danny stings himself to show people what to do and how to remove the stinger. People said, ‘I can’t believe he did that on purpose.’ Does a beekeeper get stung? Yes!” says Ginette.
“Visitors will experience a comfortable atmosphere where they are going to meet other locals and have conversations about agriculture and learn about the region. They will come away with a greater appreciation for bees and what they do for us and they’ll be inspired by the passion,” says Ginette.
“I hear my husband say a ‘good beekeeper always does what’s best for the bees, not what’s best for the beekeeper,” says Ginette.
“We are excited to open our farm gate again this year during Open Farm Days,” says Ginette, “and to have expanded our offerings for people to enjoy for many years to come.”
Paradis Valley Honey offers honey and pollen on their website. Of special note is the fundraising packages available for schools, sports clubs and non-profits across Canada.
Guest writer: Mary Bailey