By Connor Lynch
CAMPELLFORD — It came as quite a shock to win all those awards after Garry Parr had only been beekeeping for a year.
“I entered on a whim,” he said. Evidently a whim well placed: the hay farmer’s honey won five awards at last year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, including grand champion for liquid honey.
The secret? Sunflowers.
“At the heart of the farm a stream runs through, so I put (the bees) near there.” Also near the stream, on the two-acre plot Parr has allocated for his bees, is a grove of wild sunflowers. “Not like the ones you see at the farmer’s market. These ones have small heads. No purer flower than the sunflower.” He credits them, the alfalfa and the white and red clovers on his property with the clarity of his white honey.
Parr also won top prize for white liquid honey, beating out 21 other competitors. He scored the highest points in his category and in an individual class and won the reserve premier exhibitor award.
Having done some research prior to buying bees, there was some concern for the coming winter. “On a bad year you might lose 40 per cent (of your hive),” he said. Despite it being so mild, the bees ended up finding some trouble anyway. He was making his usual foray to check on them, and saw a number of dead bees outside one of the hives. “It’s warm enough that they think they can go out, and they get too cold to get back.”
Parr has his hand in a number of pies right now: in addition to beekeeping, he’s transitioning his 200-acre cash crop farm, largely of hay, to start raising Angus cattle. “Right now I have about 20 Angus heifers, and I’d like to have 50 by next year.”
Parr is also looking at growing his beekeeping operation. “I have a dozen hives; I’d like to double it next year.”
In every success on his farm, he credits the “pickiness,” he inherited from his grandfather (according to Parr, it skipped his father). “You can’t cut corners.”