There will be a sweet smell of success at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair (November 28th & 29th) when honey producers take to the Cywain stand in the Food Hall.
Beekeeping and honey will feature heavily on the Cywain stand with visitors able to try and buy products from different producers on both days of the Fair.
It is a boost too for Cywain Bee, an initiative launched two years ago to support Welsh beekeepers and increase honey production and marketing in Wales.
Funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government, Cywain Bee is a satellite of Cywain – a project set up by Menter a Busnes to bring added value to primary produce within the agriculture sector.
Over the two years Cywain Bee Development Manager, Haf Wyn Hughes, has seen interest in Welsh honey brands grow, as well as confidence and recognition of the quality of Welsh honey.
Says Haf, “Initially the main focus of Cywain Bee was on mentoring beekeepers and encouraging landowners to house beehives. Since then, the project has been working with beekeepers across Wales looking at ways of boosting beekeeping businesses and raising their confidence in their fantastic products.
“I think the main starting point with a client is to get the producer to believe they “can do this”. It’s amazing how even a new label or a brand identity unique to a beekeeper can move a small business forward. While some beekeepers have been working with us to add value by expanding their honey products.”
One such example is Samantha Evans from Maentwrog in Gwynedd who will be testing the concept for her ‘Hallowed Bee’ skin products with Cywain on the first day of the Winter Fair (November 28th).
Snowdonia beekeeper Samantha will be raising awareness of her products, which she plans to launch next year with profits from the sales going towards supporting projects to safeguard honeybees.
The facial cleanser, toner, moisturiser, serum and scrub are made from bee products including pollen, beeswax, propolis and honey from her own hives as well as botanical based formulas and tinctures she makes from local flowers and plants which she wild harvests.
“The support I have received from Cywain Bee has been fabulous,” says Samantha. “They have helped me focus and define where I want to go with my business. They have introduced me to so many contacts too, they really supply a whole support network.”
Another producer who will be featured on the Cywain stand is Great Taste Award winner Mêl Cilgwenyn, run by Llangennech beekeepers Richard Jones and Rhodri Owen.
The annual awards are recognised as a stamp of excellence among consumers and retailers alike. Mêl Cilgwenyn was among 10,000 products to be judged in this year with its ‘Mêl Cilgwenyn, Pure Carmarthenshire Wildflower Honey’ receiving a coveted award.
Winning, says Rhodri with a truly Welsh product was fantastic news which also put them among only two winners in Wales for Welsh honey, as “that whilst there are a handful of other winners in Wales for their honey, they are winners only unfortunately for their imported honey.”
Richard and Rhodri also run the Bee Free project a charity that uses the skills of beekeeping to help ex-service men and women deal with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Himself a former army intelligence officer and PTSD sufferer, Richard found his experience of beekeeping has helped him with the condition.
Says Richard, “Having been in some troubled areas I found that over time my mental health was affected by my experiences yet as a hobby beekeeping was helpful and indeed helped me develop coping mechanisms in everyday life.
“Beekeeping requires concentration when handling the bees. So the techniques used when beekeeping to help concentration can be translated into everyday life.”
Mêl Cilgwenyn has been supported in a variety of ways by Cywain Bee, and at the Winter Fair Richard and Rhodri will be launching their new labelling and branding and will be bringing their award-winning honey to the stand along with their new ‘Pure Welsh Heather Honey’.
Says Rhodri, “Cywain Bee have been very supportive helping us to develop into a bigger and better business with help with branding and label design and offering advice on reaching markets we would not have otherwise reached for with help with selling techniques and a distribution workshop.
Richard says, “They also helped in developing our Bee Free Project and promoting its work which is extremely valuable in attempting to reach a wider audience, an audience that may not even think that beekeeping can help them. Cywain continue to offer excellent advice and practical support.”
There are approximately 1,840 members of the Welsh Beekeepers Association (WBKA) and its affiliated organisations spread throughout Wales.
Many beekeepers, including Peter Jenkins of Mêl ap Griff, are passionate about the preservation of indigenous Welsh bees (Apis Mellifera Mellifera).
Lampeter-based Peter, who inherited his hives of Welsh bees from his father, belongs to the Bee Improvement & Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA) an organisation dedicated to preserving the indigenous British bee.
It is a difficult task says Peter, who will be at the Winter Fair launching his honey’s new branding, which was supported by Cywain.
“Apis Mellifera Mellifera have evolved over thousands of years to survive and prosper in our fickle climate,” says Peter.
“However, due to the fact that queen bees naturally mate on the wing, it is increasingly difficult to keep our native Welsh strains of bees pure. This is partly due to well-meaning hobby beekeepers as well as some commercial beekeepers importing bees from abroad.”
The drive to raise awareness of the struggling native Welsh bees will be discussed at a special conference on February 23rd (2017) at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. Case studies of renowned UK honey producers will be featured at the event.
Hosted by Cywain Bee the event will also demonstrate how beekeepers and bee farmers (those with more than 40 colonies) might use native bees to their advantage as well as methods of identifying and breeding locally adapted native stocks.
The conference builds on a number of successful events, including a seminar at Coleg Sir Gar a few weeks ago. Jointly held between Cywain Bee and Farming Connect the day highlighted how bees increase productivity and benefit biodiversity in existing farm systems and following the day Coleg Sir Gar has plans to work with a local beekeeper.
Says Haf, “Since the start of the Cywain Bee project there’s been a growing interest in building relationships between landowners and beekeepers looking to increase productivity and benefit biodiversity in existing farm systems.”
For anyone wishing to find out more about the support available from the Cywain Bee project Haf Hughes will be present on the Cywain stand in the Food Hall on both days of the Winter Fair.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Mêl ap Griff will be on the Cywain stand on Monday, November 28th.
Mêl Cilgwenyn will be on the Cywain stand on Tuesday, November 29th.
Hallowed Bee will be market testing on the Cywain stand on Monday, November 28th.
Cywain was set up by Menter a Busnes to bring added value to primary produce within the agriculture sector. The project has been allocated funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme for Wales 20014-2020, which is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
About Menter a Busnes
Menter a Busnes was established in 1989. With headquarters in Aberystwyth it specializes in supporting new businesses, business growth, agriculture, skills development and food and drink sectors throughout Wales. It manages a number of programmes on behalf of the Welsh Government including Farming Connect.
For more information about companies exhibiting on the Cywain stand at the Royal Welsh Show please contact:
Myrddin Davies, Cywain Manager
01745 770273 / 07964 354674
Lowri Edwards, Cywain Development Manager