Just a year ago, Angela Rosenkranz knew nothing about beekeeping.
Now, she proudly holds a ribbon from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for her award-winning honey.
“Without the NC Commercial Beekeeping program, none of this would have happened,” said Rosenkranz, who recently placed second in the Cut Comb Honey category at the Royal’s Honey and Beeswax Competition (Amateur).
The Beamsville resident noted that she had never worked with honey bees or bees of any kind prior to beginning the program in January 2017. In fact, her previous college diploma was in Radiation Technology and Ultrasound.
It wasn’t until she spotted the Commercial Beekeeping program in Niagara College’s program guide that she became interested in the industry in general with its industry applications in pollination services, honey and by-products of the hive – wax, soaps, lip balms, creams, and more. Rosenkranz decided to enrol in the program as a mature student, thinking that it could be a skill she could enjoy well into her retirement years.
“I have a little bit of land and thought perhaps I could keep bees. I really wanted to understand and have a good foundation about the industry,” she recalled. “I challenged myself to go back to school and learn about the honey bees and industry with the support of professional beekeepers by my side.”
As a student, Rosenkranz began to keep two bee hives in her own yard to get a feel for the industry before investing in additional hives. With the encouragement of her professor Mylee Nordin, she entered two frames of her own honey into the Royal’s Amateur Honey competition this fall under the name ‘Benchaven.’ Winners were announced in late October.
“I am thrilled with my win at the 95th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for my cut comb honey. It is the first time I have entered into a competition at the Royal,” said Rosenkranz. “A year ago, I would not have dreamed of this “
For Nordin, it was rewarding to see her students immerse themselves in the industry at the Royal and get involved with opportunities like the honey competition. “From the very beginning, Angela has shown real initiative in reaching out and considering various opportunities in the industry,” said Nordin. “It is a real source of pride, and says a lot about the quality of students we have, that so many have taken on the role of ambassadors for the program.”
For Rosenkranz, there has been much to learn and understand over the past year as she learned to work with live bees both at the College and independently with her own hives.
“It has been a really great year of challenges and learning as reaching far beyond my comfort zone, learning to be a part of nature, the environment, and understanding the amazing world of beekeeping,” she said. “It has been a really great experience and I feel very privileged to be a part of the first graduating group of students from the program. I have met so many wonderful people throughout the past year.”
NC’s Commercial Beekeeping program participated in the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair by hosting an educational booth alongside Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, the University of Guelph, and the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association. Students volunteered their time educating the public about pollinators and beekeeping. Commercial Beekeeping student Andrew Pitek created a display, while pamphlets about pollinator plants were developed by students in the College’s horticulture programs. Apiary technician Jay Thatcher and other staff members were also involved.
Niagara College placed fifth in the Royal’s professional Honey and Beeswax competition, in the Liquid Honey White Ontario and Provinces East category.
The first of its kind in Eastern Canada, Niagara College’s a one-year hands-on Commercial Beekeeping Graduate Certificate program launched in January 2017. It was designed to meet the growing demand for commercial beekeepers across the country – an estimated 3,610 are needed by 2023, according to Statistics Canada. With the winter start, the program runs parallel to the normal annual lifecycle of the honey bee, from the winter slumber to honey extraction, to returning the bees to their hives for overwintering. Based at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, students work on an on-campus apiary with 30 actively managed hives. Click here for program information.