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Creating a buzz around bee farming to attract new generation to the industry

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 13, 2014

By Athwenna Irons, Farming and Rural Affairs reporter, Twitter: @AthwennaWMN

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The Bee Farmers Association is looking to recruit seven young apprentices across the country.

With a current skills shortage and ageing profile in the industry, the new apprentice scheme aims to recruit and train young enthusiasts, aged between 16 and 24, who wish to learn this traditional rural craft.

The Bee Farmers’ Association is the voice of professional beekeepers in the United Kingdom. It has nearly 400 members, many of whom make their entire living from managing honeybees.

Bee farmers play a key part in the rural economy and are essential workers in the food chain. Pollination is vital to British agriculture and UK food production, and has recently been valued at more than £510 million.

Margaret Ginman, general secretary of the BFA, said: “We need to attract youngsters with the ability to work with our carefully-selected expert bee farmers to learn this ancient craft.

“Our apprentices must be capable of hard, physical work and be good decision makers. Much of what happens when you open a beehive requires quick thinking,” added Mrs Ginman.

The BFA plans to take measures to build the number of hives required to meet pollination needs and to sustain the increasing levels of food production. The association would also like to see the UK move closer to self-sufficiency in honey production as, at present, 85% of honey consumed in the UK is imported. There are also many industrial uses for beeswax which could be tapped into.

Emily Reed, from The London Honey Company, which is eager to recruit an apprentice under the scheme, said: “We are delighted that the Bee Farmers Association has developed this apprenticeship scheme. It is exactly the sort of programme I would have liked to do when I started in the bee business.

“The training programme which the BFA has developed covers lots of aspects. It is still shocking that 85% of honey eaten in Britain is imported despite the growing public interest in honey and beekeeping.

“We are keen to bring on the next generation of beekeepers who are equipped to deal with the complex issues facing both pollinators and food producers but ultimately to produce top quality honey for people to enjoy. We love our job and think an apprentice will too,” added Emily.

Ian Wallace, of Quince Honey Farm, is looking for an apprentice from the South Molton area in Devon. He said: “We are thrilled that bee farming is being recognised for the important role it plays in agriculture and the economy in general. We are really excited to get some young blood into the craft.”

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