Meet a Beekeeper

Lauren Park- A Fresh New Face

The face of beekeeping in Nova Scotia is changing. I have a friend and neighbour aged forty who would boast and lament, until recently, that he was often the youngest beekeeper in the room. No more. The recent surge of interest in bees and beekeeping has swelled the ranks of the NSBA and lowered the median age considerably and Lauren Park is representative of the new face of beekeeping in the province.

Lauren came to Nova Scotia in 2007 from her home in Oakville, Ontario to take a degree at Acadia in music education with a specialty in saxophone and bassoon. She stayed true to that career track for a couple of years before getting diverted. She had decided in the winter of 2009 that she wanted to work in Nova Scotia for the summer rather than return to Ontario, and with that in mind she took a resume to Tom Cosman at his honey farm in Greenwich in January of that year. Though shy on hands-on experience, Lauren was well-read on bees. When Tom didn't bite, she persisted, re-visited him in March of that year and got a hearing and a chance. Since that time she has parlayed her interest into a full time job, one that she finds absorbing and fulfilling. (As a scribe of these profiles I find Lauren's hiring satisfying. Tom is a self-taught read-everything-you-can kind of beekeeper and his employing of Lauren seems a sort of squaring of the circle, what goes round comes round kind of thing a very good sort of way.) Seven years later, Lauren is a valuable part of Cosman and Whidden Honey and is set to branch out and add value to that business as an associate as well as an employee.

The first year was a trial one. Lauren said she was strictly a go-fer: no driving, no making of splits, strictly a pair of hands doing what she was told. From the start she worked gloveless and felt very confident and happy working with the bees as her book learning snapped into focus. Meanwhile, she completed her music degree, continued to perform and play in ensembles and worked the bees in the summer and music in the winter. She moved to Halifax in 2011, worked on the Kiwanis music festival and taught and still teaches with the Nova Scotia Youth Wind Ensemble. Lauren performed with the likes of Symphony Nova Scotia, Opera Nova Scotia, Scotia Festival, Nova Sinfonia, Chebucto Orchestra and many other groups. Music friends found her farming interest puzzling, Lauren not so much. She finds the discipline of practicing, rehearsing, meeting deadlines, organizing and collaborating with ensemble members very transferable to the tasks of scheduling work for fellow beekeepers and meeting the exigencies of pollination placement and honey production. Her family lives in Oakville but her grandparent's farm property northwest of the city had been her summer place and she, also inspired by her outdoorsy father, had early on developed a love of the outdoors and physical work which beekeeping satisfies. There are many paths one can take and Lauren credits her family for their unwavering support throughout her adventures in music and bees.

The Cosman business has grown to 1700 hives. Re-queening and splitting are important to maintain production and the business has purchased queens for this purpose. Lauren thought that one way that she could add value to the business was by queen rearing and to that end she went to the American Bee Federation conference in 2014, attended many queen rearing sessions, and she has been picking the brains of Lorraine Hamilton, Jerry Draheim and Robert Prinzen to gain knowledge and skills in that field. In 2015 she raised 1500 cells that were used in the Cosman operation mainly for re-queening after blueberry pollination. She also made 65 nucs and queened them with cells. In the upcoming year she want to produce mated queens as well as cells.

With the support of the farm loan board Lauren has recently purchased a small farm property in the Gaspereau Valley which will be the site of her queen rearing operation. In 2016 she plans on keeping 25 hives there for that purpose. The site is fairly isolated and it is distant from other beekeepers. In 2015, after blueberries, she marked hives with good brood nests and re-marked the ones that also had good honey production. She will select breeding queens from these marked hives and plans to use four to six breeder queens per year. This winter she will be building mating nucs to get ready for the new venture.

Sunny days! It all looks like sunny days, right? Lauren is young, smart, and enthusiastic and she has found her passion and she's going for it. But there is an elephant in the corner. About four years into beekeeping, in 2013, Lauren developed a bee allergy. Currently, Lauren sees an allergist once a week for venom therapy, and that interval will gradually become longer as her tolerance increases. She carries two epipens at all times. The young woman who blithely started gloveless now wears a full suit and gloves at all times, and she has learned to maintain calmness in her bee-handling despite the risk.

When you've got the bug it's hard to give it up.