Food Matters – Babe’s Honey Returns!

Distinctive LabelingIt was a household name for honey on Vancouver Island for more than 60 years. Babe’s Honey was known for being a high-quality local product as well as its bright fluorescent orange labels. The company went into receivership, though, and the honey supply dried up. But Babe’s Honey is back.

Charlie Warren and his wife Alison, also known as Babe, ran Babe’s Honey for decades, starting in 1945 with just a few hives and eventually thousands of beehives that were positioned around Vancouver Island to allow bees to produce honey from all the wonderful flowers we have we have around here. I actually got to meet Babe not long after I moved to Vancouver. This would have been back in the mid-to-late 90’s, I think, I was on a foodie-scavenger hunt of Vancouver Island and my meanderings found me at Babe’s. Charlie had already passed away, but Babe was going strong, showed me around their warehouse and told me how she stung herself with a bee every day to help out with her arthritis…which left a lasting impression on me, I can tell you.

Babe passed away in 2006, and the company was sold to a group of investors. The farm the honey processing plant was on in Saanich basically became a landfill site, creating much controversy, but the long and the short of it is that the company went into receivership in 2011, the courts ordered the land and the beekeeping and honey business to be sold separately, and that’s where Brandon Schwartz comes in. 

Brandon used to work at Babe’s. Not when Babe was there, but in the years after she passed away. He first got hooked on honey when he was studying accounting in school, but had a chance to go to California and work at a large-scale beekeeping operation. It was a life-changing experience: Listen to Brandon’s Quote (36 seconds)

HiveBy the box he means the beehives, beehives would become a huge part of his life, but he didn’t know that when he took the job at Babe’s. But by the time the company went into receivership he knew that he didn’t want to see all the bees, hives and other equipment go to waste, so he stepped in with some financial help from his father and bought the name and everything else he could afford at auction. But this is back in June of last year, too late to get the beehives and bees in shape for the season, which could mean no Babe’s Honey on the shelves for 2012.  So for this year only, Brendan’s bees did not produce the honey for sale now, but it was all produced here in BC:

Listen to Brandon’s Quote (23 seconds)

So, the bees are out in their hives, and I got a chance to get up close and personal with a group of hives, so close that Brandon got stung right next to his eye, and I had a couple of bees buzzing in my hair that I could just not get rid of for a while! Luckily I didn’t get stung but I feel bad that Brandon did…

Right now you can get Babe’s Honey in just one place.  Brandon is renting some space at Galey Farms on Blenkinsop Road right now, and for the foreseeable future as his main retail outlet. As Brandon grows the business he expects to get back into more retail outlets like Babe’s was before, and people are glad to see those bright labels coming back: Listen to Brandon’s Quote (48 seconds)

Try Honey

You can go and taste all the honeys there before you buy, and the shop smells great because of all the honey, and beeswax candles available there as well. If you want to learn more about honey, bees and mead, May 27th is Honeybee Awareness Day and you can learn all about the industry at Tugwell Creek Honey Farm and Meadery near Sooke. Click here for more information.

To listen to my entire conversation with Jo-Ann Roberts about Babe’s Honey on the All Points West show click here.

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