Meet a Beekeeper

Ben Cornect- It Just Happens

Photo by: Tim Krochak

Sometimes stuff "just happens"; other times people consciously cause things to happen, and sometimes stuff happens and people take what they are given and work with it to shape outcomes they desire. That would be called taking charge of your of your destiny. Ben Cornect's progress in beekeeping is an interesting mix of stuff happening and intention and effort to take charge.

In the spring of 2011 Ben, now 27 will start off in business with 375 hives and plans to raise than number in time to 650. It all started about sixteen years ago when Ben was 11 and his mum and dad, Margaret and Wayne Cornect got a couple of hobby hives with a view to developing their skill and pollinating their own low-bush blueberries. Margaret was the beekeeper and she split and made increase up to twenty hives to service their own fields and subsequently has raised her numbers to 75 hives and 20 winter nucs, both to serve other blueberry growers in their Guysborough area and with a view to passing on the hives to Ben.

As a boy, Ben tagged along and helped his mum from about age 11 to 15. It was at age 15 that he got the stinging. Pollination was over and rental hives had been moved from the Cornect berry field, but a clump of straggler bees were left, and they were ugly, really ugly, and a hapless 15 year old wandered by at the wrong time and got stung repeatedly and chased across the field until he dived into the fish pond for relief. And that was the end of Ben's beekeeping career. He never helped his mum again.

He did a year and a half at St. F. X before dropping out and noted that any projects that he did he slanted towards bees, honey and pollination, but his interest was purely theoretical, and he held to his no more bees (or stings) for me attitude. Ben's summer jobs and then full time work involved Christmas trees –spraying, shearing, spacing and selling. When he dropped out of X he worked days on his fiancé's dad's tree farm and night at a grocery store to pay off his student loan. This was how things were in the spring of 2005 when Ben fell in the woods and got a grievous cut to his leg from his shearing knife. Six months divided amongst hospital, rehab and recuperation gave him lots of time to think. This experience, the thinking and consultation with his fiancé confirmed his desire to work out doors their wish to be in business for themselves.

With that in mind they both registered at the NSAC in the fall of 2005 and graduated with diplomas in agricultural business and minors in plant science in 2007. Again, Ben's school project work was bee-themed. When Debert Commercial beekeeper Paul Kittilsen advertised for help in 2007 Ben bit the bullet, and after nine years away from them, went back to work with bees. The first year with Paul, Ben wore bee gloves all the time, still nervous from his bad experience as a teen.

Ben is still working with Paul, now in his fourth year, and he likens his apprenticeship to a college education. He has long since shed his gloves. In those four years he says he has seen thousands of hives in good years and bad and in various yards all through Central Nova Scotia. He has helped Paul recover from 50% losses one year and has enjoyed (and sweated) through this year's bumper crop. He has learned from Paul and John Stiles, Paul's long time right hand man, and has gleaned ideas about management and treatment from the many beekeepers who visited to talk and bring supers in for extraction.

And now it's graduation time: bee college days are nearly over. Ben is going to buy 300 hives from Paul in the spring and a used truck and loader and start beekeeping based in Denver, Guysborough County at this parent's location. Ben and Nicole have a plan: first a bee building housing storage, extraction, a hot room and a workshop; then a house, then the greenhouses to satisfy Nicole's dreams of supplying plants to the Antigonish farmer's market and organic vegetable to restaurants. They'll live in a rental unit in Antigonish as they start to work to realize their dream
Ben knows there is a significant need for bees in Guysborough and Antigonish blueberry fields. He knows how difficult it is for full time blueberry growers to keep bees as a sideline, and he plans to supply their pollination needs by focusing strictly on beekeeping. He wants to run a one-man operation and he wants to incorporate the ideas about efficiency that he has learned from Paul and John, so he has decided that the truck and loader and palletizing are essential meet moving deadlines in pollination season and to save his back. Having reached that conclusion he has had to face up to the significant start up costs, there being no way to "ease into" a palletized operation.

Side-tracked by angry bees as a youth, then focused by a work experience, his accident, and a vision shared with Nicole, Ben and his partner are taking charge of their future.

Photo by Tim Krochak