What’s the buzz? Alberta is the powerhouse of Canada’s honeybee industry

Richard Ozero operates a forklift in his warehouse, loading drums full of honey into a semi-trailer. His son uses a dolly to transport and organize the drums deeper into the trailer.

This wasn’t Ozero’s initial entrepreneurship plan, but he’s happy with how things are going since he jumped head-first into beekeeping.

Alberta is Canada’s honey powerhouse; Ozero and his family are among hundreds of beekeepers helping the province’s honey industry buzz.

“Looking back, I don’t know how we did it,” he said. “I don’t know if I could do it again, but it feels good.”

Ozero grew up on a farm near Bonnyville, Alta., before building a career in television news in Edmonton. He worried about the internet’s growth and how it would affect the industry and his own future.

In 2006, he and his wife Amber, who also worked in TV news, bought a farm in Parkland County, west of Edmonton. Ozero thought they needed livestock, then remembered a commercial beekeeper who had colonies on his parents’ property.

Three glass jars filled with honey sit in a line on a shelf.
Good Morning Honey products have shipped throughout North America and even overseas, said co-owner Richard Ozero. (Nicholas Frew/CBC)

He invited the beekeeper to put colonies on his new farm. He helped the man tend to his bees, learning along the way. The plan was to maybe — eventually — buy one or two of the colonies.

In 2011, the Ozeros bought 920 colonies.

“That’s like being from the city and buying 500 cows, knowing nothing about cows. It’s a pretty big risk,” Ozero said, adding that creating a family business is what attracted him to the opportunity.

The risk paid off: the family’s Good Morning Honey has since grown to 4,000 colonies since the initial purchase and its product has shipped throughout Canada and even internationally.

According to Statistics Canada, 40 per cent of all honey produced in Canada last year came from Alberta — and it had never been worth more.

The value of Alberta honey was nearly $105.6 million in 2023 — a new record, in part driven by higher prices. Manitoba was the second-biggest producer, reporting nearly $48.2 million in honey sales.

Alberta housed nearly 303,000 honeybee colonies last year — the most of any province, and almost 40 per cent of the country’s entire stock.

Interest in beekeeping is on the upswing in the province, increasing more than threefold since 2008 — from 620 beekeepers to 1,950 in 2023.

The vast majority of bees are owned by commercial beekeepers: about 170 beekeepers own more than 290,000 colonies in Alberta, said Connie Phillips, executive director of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission, an industry organization.

Honey, of course, is a far less lucrative farm commodity than wheat or beef. In 2022, Alberta farmers earned more than $22 billion from crops, livestock and direct social payments, farm cash receipt data shows. That year, honey sales accounted for $94.1 million, or about 0.4 per cent of the total.

But the federal government estimates honeybees contribute billions to the agriculture sector through…

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