Ag Business Spotlight: Gull Lake Honey Company

After getting married in 2017, Lorne and Alida Prins decided they wanted to return to Lacombe County, where Lorne grew up. After living in Edmonton and Vancouver and being separated internationally for work, the two agreed they would pursue any opportunity they could find that would return them to the family farm. The trouble was, what would this opportunity ‘bee’?

At the same time, some local beekeepers that were connected to the family were downsizing their beekeeping operations into retirement. Lorne and Alida were in the right place at the right time. Although the Prins had no background or knowledge in beekeeping, they jumped at the opportunity and have never looked back. 

This spring marked the 5th year of business for Gull Lake Honey, and they’ve grown to 2000 mature colonies and hope to have up to 800 colonies to be used for spring stock replacement. This number of colonies will allow them to produce several hundred barrels of honey and a few thousand pounds of beeswax this season – if mother nature cooperates! Coming out of winter, not all the mature colonies will survive to continue with the honey production, which means stock replacement is required. By growing nucleus colonies rather than purchasing them, Lorne and Alida can keep greater control over the process to ensure the health and strength of their greatest asset.

The primary business for Gull Lake Honey comes from their commercial-scale apiary. As members of the Honey Producers Co-operative, most of the honey they produce is sold in bulk to Bee-maid in Spruce Grove, then packaged and retailed under that label across North America. Not the type of people to put all their bees in one hive, the Prins opened a farm store in 2020 where they sell some of their products and other locally sourced goods. If you’ve ever dreamed about pouring fresh, warm honey from a tap into your own container from home, you can also experience that at the farm store. The bees might sleep during the winter, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening - families and school groups can participate in educational tours and candle-making activities all winter long. The store is open all year, and you can even attend an occasional market on-site featuring lots of local vendors!

The next step in diversification is to develop a queen breeding program to both satisfy their internal need for stock replacement and to sell queens and colonies to other producers and hobbyist beekeepers in the area. From a honey producer to a bee supplier! 

As new beekeepers, Lorne and Alida are keen to learn while also contributing to their new agricultural community. To that end, Lorne now sits as Vice Chair of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission and has recently joined the board of AgSafe Alberta.

Their words of advice come straight from the most significant lessons they’ve learned in the last four years; there isn’t one way to get the job done, be willing to ask for help and then learn as much as you can from those who are more experienced. That’s pretty great advice for any industry or situation, don’t you agree?

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