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Family Bees: Gibbs Honey

Issue 05

Soon after graphic designer Russell Gibbs relocated from urban Toronto to Dundas, Ontario, a quaint historic valley town near the Niagara Escarpment, he felt the urge to do “something” to help him connect with local growers. Through this mission, he also discovered a love for connecting with the land — something that was missing from his city life and design career.

After learning that his beekeeper uncles were not going to keep their bees forever, Russell jumped at the chance to maintain the sweet business. “I have five colonies right now. There are always plans to expand, but I have to balance making honey with my other career — running my own design business. Oddly enough, beekeeping is the perfect companion. It gets me away from the computer and puts me right in the real world, where I am just a small speck,” says Gibbs.

Countlan Issue 05 Gibbs Honey

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Gibbs Honey is entering its third season. Russell’s honey (which he prefers to eat straight from the spoon) is made from bees that feed on clover, buttercups, and wild grapes. Russell sells his honey packaged in simple, timeless bottles at a Sunday farmers’ market in Burlington. When he has harvest, he is lucky to keep stock for longer than a month.

 INTERVIEW: Russel Gibbs, Owner, Gibbs Honey, Dundas, Ontario (Canada)

01 Where does the information gap exist in the minds of consumers when it comes to purchasing honey?
There are lots of gaps in consumer education when it comes to purchasing honey. Before farmers markets became popular, not  many people had access to honey from beekeepers so they purchased honey (probably unknowingly) from bottlers. There is a difference between beekeepers and bottlers. Bottlers buy honey from beekeepers, mix it and sell it to consumers. I always recommend to my customers to find and support a local beekeeper so they know what they are getting in the jar.  When you start exposing yourself to honey from a local beekeeper, its a pretty amazing world. There is so much to discover.

One of the big things I run into when it comes to a gap in information is the price point of honey, which is essentially a commodity. A lot of beekeepers don’t seem to factor in the amount of work that goes into managing the colony. It involves six months of tireless work and worrying leading up to harvest. My honey is priced at the higher end of the spectrum, not only because of the packaging but also because of the work that went into cultivating it. I produce a unique product that can’t be matched in my local market.

The other question I get all of the time from consumers is surrounding pasteurization.  Pasteurization is mainly done for store bought honey to preserve its shelf-life. There is no benefit to it.

02 How would you describe your brand?
My brand values are honesty through hard work and history. The Gibbs Honey aesthetic is simple and memorable. I wanted to create something that feels like its been around forever. Its not dated. Its not following a trend. For all you know the Gibbs Honey logo could have been done in the 50s, its not, but that’s the idea. Working class.

03 What have you learned since getting involved with bees?
With my bees I am always learning. There is so much we can learn from them if we ever get over ourselves. Bees are all about coexisting. Working as a team for the greater good. Any bee that goes rogue is extricated from the colony. There is something interesting there. I am not saying that we need to accept status quo, never challenge anything.  Its more about intentions. If your intention is for the greater good, amazing. If its only for selfish gain, then… you’re not allowed in my colony.

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Photo Source: Gibbs Honey

04 How do you enjoy eating honey?
I enjoy eating honey on its own, by the spoon. I have a new found appreciation for the different tastes and flavors you can discover. My second favourite way to eat honey seems odd, but…I like to eat it in my coffee!

05 What is the flavour profile of Gibbs Honey?
My honey is pretty even due to the amount of clover, but there are hints of fruit in there, which makes it quite interesting. I am not lying when I say its delicious!

06 Where is Gibbs Honey available?
I sell my honey at a Farmers Market in Burlington, ON every Sunday from 9-12. I would love to be involved in other markets, but… a lot of them seem to have fees and lots of hoops to jump through – which I am not interested in. My harvest isn’t that huge, and when I have honey, I am lucky to keep stock for longer than a month. The other way to get some is to email me, and we set up a meet up.

Recipes With Honey to Try

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