Susan Curtis, by all accounts, is the ideal partner for a beekeeper.
Her multi-generation dairy farm near Joyceville, Ont., grows ample flowering crops to keep bees fed and producing honey. She was even willing to widen and improve an access road for the bee yard, all for the trade off of a few cases of honey at the end of the season.
Like most beekeeper/farmer relationships, there was a verbal agreement to start off, but nothing written on paper. There was an understanding that the beekeeper or his staff would need access to the bee yard at any time, and for the first few years, Susan and her family spoke with the beekeeper now and then, but didn’t see him or his crew very often. He said that the bee yard at the Curtis farm was one of his top yielding sites.
Just a few years in to the agreement, however, the beekeeper — unannounced and without permission — invited a film crew on to Susan’s farm. The crew, filming for David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things,” filmed footage for the episode “To bee or not to bee,” highlighting the plight of the honeybee in North America and criticizing the use of pesticides in agriculture.
That was in 2010, but Susan didn’t ask the beekeeper to leave, even though the event marred the relationship. It wasn’t until this year, when the Ontario government rolled out its restrictions on neonicotinoid seed treatments and a letter arrived from the Grain Farmers of Ontario alerting farmers to liability risks in hosting beekeepers that Susan asked the beekeeper to leave her property. The risks, she says, are just not worth it.
In the audio below, you’ll hear Susan’s account of her farm’s history with beekeepers, how Ontario’s new regulations changed her outlook, and why she won’t be hosting beekeepers on her land again.
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