Producer of the Month: Ian Wallace, Beekeeper, Quince Honey Farm, Devon
As January flu spreads as swiftly as the snow, what better product to consume than naturally anti-bacterial British honey and what better producer to profile than 27 year-old beekeeper Ian Wallace. Wallace, along with his parents Jean and Paddy, runs
Quince Honey Farm in South Molton. Over 40% of honey currently sold in the UK is imported, so there has never been a greater time to support the British honey industry. Quince Honey Farm is a family business, having been established by Ian's grandfather in 1949. Ian himself joined the business seven years ago. With 1,500 hives covering 2,500 square miles of moorland and Devon countryside, it is one of Britain's largest Honey Farms. The Wallaces also run an onsite Visitor Centre which demonstrates every stage of honey production. Originally, the honey was sold to honey packers, now it is sold to wholesalers and retailed through their own shop. Produce includes the W.I. award-winning Exmoor Heather Honey as well as savoury adaptations such as Devon Honey & Real Ale Chutney. In partnership with Dunstable Farm, they also produce Honey Ice-Cream, Fudge and Toffee.
- Why do you do what you do?
I really love my job. Working so closely with nature is really satisfying for me. Bees are such fascinating creatures; there is always something new to see and learn. My initial enthusiasm for the job was sparked by the infectious passion for bees that possess my father and my grandfather.
- What achievement are you most proud of?
When I was covered in 150,000 bees. Many years ago, my father was asked to sport a beard of bees. I wanted to go one step further and wear a body of bees. The trick is to separate worker bees from their queen for a few hours, which induces queenless behaviour. Having done this, the queen was attached to my body and then the other bees were re-introduced. They were so happy to see her that they were not aggressive. It's slightly disconcerting at first but you soon become used to it. A Blue Peter presenter even came and had a go.
- What is your most memorable moment?
There are many memorable moments with this job, both good and bad. Some of the most memorable took place during the annual hive migration to Exmoor. Every year we transport all 1500 hives from North Devon up to Exmoor where they stay for August and September to collect honey from the heather. It is a great deal of hard work but it's worth it, Exmoor Heather Honey is truly exquisite. During the move, time is of the absolute essence because the clover flow in North Devon finishes as the heather flow on Exmoor begins. Inevitably things go wrong. One of my favourite tribulations was the tractor breaking down in boggy ground and having to carry each hive, individually, through knee deep mud, across a stream, up a bank and through a hedge to finally reach their destination.
- If you were Prime Minister what would you do to encourage more people to eat British?
Restricting imports is an obvious answer but where do we draw the line? Imported goods contribute positively to our society, by increasing consumer choice and competition. British food is more expensive because of the outrageous costs involved in production, especially labour costs. Perhaps a law should be introduced that states to be able to claim umemployment benefits you have to do a stint in the fields or on the British production line.
- Favourite food and why?
I love many different foods. Aside from honey, it would have to be roast pork from our local butcher, cooked by my mum. It is always so tasty and falls apart in your mouth.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food?
Sadly, I think more and more British producers will go out of business because people do not want to pay more than they have to for food. Eventually, there will be an inevitable global catastrophe such as war, which will affect imports. After which things will slowly pick up again.
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
You are what you eat... Be British!
- Beat the Recession tip?
Make more of your left overs. Why not make a sauce for the scraps of left over meat and rustle up a few dumplings. Dumplings are cheap to make and really fill you up.
- What's on the menu this evening?
Roast pork cooked by my mum, funnily enough.
- How can people get hold of your products?
By visiting our shop in South Molton, North Devon. Ordering over the telephone: 01769 572401 or ordering online via our website: www.quincehoney.co.uk