Meet Derek Wulff. He is the beekeeper at Windriver Farms in Metchosin, BC. Derek invents educational toys for a living, and when he isn't creating new designs, he is in his garden or tending to his bees.
This interview is to connect YOU to the ingredients and suppliers in your skin care. We source honey from Windriver farms for our Honey Face Wash.
We hope this interview sparks joy as you learn about the person who fosters the bees who bring you local honey to your face once or twice a day.
Fun Fact: It was actually Derek's idea to name the company after Kimiko because of her unique name.
Hi Derek! Thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview for our customers.
What do you say to the thousands of people who have put your honey on their face?
“Ahahah wow congratulations, that’s really interesting. Well, I would say it’s great news because it doesn’t get any cleaner in terms of an ingredient. The honey is literally going straight from the beehive to your face, all I do is filter it. And we don’t live near any industrial farms, so all the honey is from the available pesticide-free nature within 3km of our house...I have to eat it you know… so I want to know its the best.”
What is your favorite way to enjoy honey?
"Toast - I like it on toast a lot, and I use it in my granola. Honey in beer I also like. Oh and of course in my Honey Face Wash!"
Why did you name it Windriver Farms?
"Windriver Farm is our house in Metchosin, BC. We have lived here for 15 years. When we started selling honey, we called it Windriver because it is SO windy at our house, and there is a river in the woods beside us. My wife liked the river, and so we named it Windriver."
How did you start beekeeping?
"I have a bunch of organic vegetables, and over 40 fruit trees on the property. I found beekeeping because I was interested in pollinating the fruit trees and always liked honey."
"I visited Apiary’s in Ontario before moving to Metchosin, and generally loved the outdoors and gardening, but I didn’t know I would like beekeeping until I did it."
What do you call your bee hives? A bee cave? A bee farm? A bee colony?
"It is called apiary - I have 5-10 hives at any given time."
Oh, and what does your apiary look like?
"Three years ago we set-up a special yard for the hives with a solar-powered electric fence around it to keep the bears out. We noticed bears a few years back and thought it would be a good idea."
What makes your honey pesticide and herbicide free?
"The honey is pesticide and herbicide-free because there isn’t any commercial farming near where we live, so the bees are enjoying the natural untouched foliage."
"We have 2.5 acres, but the bees fly about 3km out in every direction to get the nectar. They eat pollen from our fruit trees, and the local Fir trees, Scotch broom, Arbutus trees, Maple trees, and Blackberry bushes. In the summer, we take the bees up to Jordan River and set-up their summer vacation on private lands in the mountains."
You take your bees on Summer Vacation?
"Every summer we close the hives at night and load them into the truck. We leave before sunrise and set-up the space in the mountains of Jordan River. We set up the solar electric fence, and they stay there for the summer. Here the bee’s enjoy pollen from Fireweed, Salal, and Goldenrod."
What is the role of a beekeeper?
"The beekeeper and the hive have a symbiotic relationship. It is a give and take, not just take. You have to replace the frames, give them space and understand the personalities of each hive. They need to have a healthy environment."
What do you mean... the personality of each hive?
"Each hive is different based on their queen. Some hives are more aggressive, some produce more honey. Some queens produce a lot of eggs, and some do not. Some queens will stay at the bottom tiers of the hive and lay eggs, and some will only lay eggs at the top. Sometimes a hive decides to change the queen themselves because she isn’t laying well or producing enough eggs. If the hive wants the queen to go, they will add royal jelly to the eggs (supersede themselves), and the queen will know it is time to go. Other times the queen will decide she has laid enough eggs or decide it is time to go, she will swarm and leave to start a new colony elsewhere."
What would you say to someone who is interested in beekeeping?
"I would tell them to join a beekeeping group, and find a mentor. The more hives you can see and understand the better. I am a mentor in a beekeeping group and people will come here to visit and learn from our hives. It is important to observe the hives through the seasons and understand what it takes to keep the hive healthy."
"The best part about beekeeping is how it connects me to nature. You suddenly become so aware of the seasons around you, you notice the flowers and the foliage and think about the pollination. You really start to understand the importance of pollination."
Is beekeeping your means of income?
"No… I am a toy inventor. I invent natural toys for Pathfinder Designs. They are natural wood-based educational toys which are part of my philosophy. Beekeeping is something you do because you love it, making money is a bonus. Sometimes we make a little money and some years we don't."
How is honey made?
"Bees collect pollen in their “honey gut” which is not the same as their stomach. They bring it back to the hive and put it into the cell. There are special enzymes in their gut that are healthy. The enzymes are natural preservatives that keep the honey from going bad and have other beneficial properties. When they fill the cell, they flap their wings to evaporate the water which also helps preserve the honey. When the water is evaporated, they cap the cell."
Can you explain the industrial or commercial honey industry to me?
"The problem is the industrialization of agriculture. Fields of agriculture are sprayed with chemicals, and then thousands of hives are brought in on flatbed trucks to pollinate."
"When the bees have pollinated one industrial farm, they are packed up and brought to the next state to pollinate another mono-crop. This inter-state pollination continues over the seasons of the crops. This is how disease is spread. OR if they don’t have disease they have been treated with antibiotics. They build up resistance and then a superbug comes in, and we can’t treat it."
"The industrialization of beekeeping is another problem... Commercial beekeepers have so many bees and so many hives, and they don't have time to look at the health of each hive... so they have to add antibiotics and medicine to keep their bees alive and working."
"Recently there is a trend to let the bees die over winter rather than wintering them because the cost of care over the winter is higher than buying new lots of bees each year."
"This is why smaller hives are better because you can be more attentive. This is my general philosophy - when you have less of something you care for it more. The more animals you have, the less attention they receive. With bees, it is the same. Because I have only a few hives, I know them all personally. When you have a smaller apiary, you are more attentive, and you are more careful about how you interact."
What do you wish Canadians knew about honey?
"Honey sold in Canada only has to have 51% of honey produced in Canada to be labeled "Canadian honey" and that is a problem because not everyone has the same standards as we do."
"If you can, buy honey from local beekeepers. Billy Bee is part of the problem and not part of the solution."
- Interview conducted on Oct 4th 2017
- Photography by: Breeze Photography