What began as a plan to improve pollination in their vegetable patch has blossomed into a sweet business for Arno and Rene van Eeden of Little Eeden Farm Apiary.
Their unique bush honey, natural and unprocessed, together with enthusiasm for their product and dedication to quality and customer service has seen the popularity of Little Eeden skyrocket in the last six months, and the team are a regular sight at local markets.
Arno, whose father and grandfather both kept bees as a hobby in his homeland South Africa, decided to bring some hives to the property after noticing his vegetable garden was low in flowers due to a lack of bees to perform pollination. The by-product of course – was their own honey.
“We gave the honey away free at the beginning, then more and more people starting asking for it. They really enjoyed the honey that we gave them. We saw the opportunity and it just got bigger,” says Arno. “We have had our honey in shops in Perth for 3-4 years now.”
Whilst most honey producers have several varieties of honey, based on the different plants and flowers they have been pollinating, Little Eeden bees produce bush honey – they pollinate from all the trees on the property rather than a single variety. This results in a very distinctive honey with a lovely blend of bush flavours. While this lack of variety may have initially seemed like a downfall in a competitive market, it prompted Arno and Rene to get creative with their customer offer.
Ginger honey, garlic honey, chilli honey and honeymalade are some of the infusions that have been created. A stand out is their Bee Tea – a blend of ginger honey, turmeric, cayenne and black peppers, and cinnamon which is mixed into hot milk or water. It’s a flavour-packed immunity boost based on a family tradition with a twist.
“The bee tea started with my dad. He would eat cayenne pepper and turmeric together as a dry powder. I thought well, I think we can do that better. It is now massive; we have shipped it all over the state and to the East Coast,” says Arno.
The humble honey is no longer just a breakfast spread, and it is enjoying a resurgence as a health food and consumers are more conscious of what makes quality honey. Honey’s antimicrobial strength is measured in total activity, and Jarrah honey rates around 20 on the scale. Rene admits that expectations for the total activity rating of Little Eeden’s bush honey was low. “People said to me ‘Don’t bother, the chances of you getting even just a 10 will be extraordinary’. Ours came back at 19.2! We are absolutely over the moon about that result. I’m glad I didn’t listen!” said Rene.
A batch of Little Eeden honey has recently left Australian shores bound for Malaysia. Rene and Arno were approached by Koala Exports, who were impressed with their product after sampling it at the Mindarie Chili Festival in February. The stringent testing required for export was welcomed by Rene and Arno, who voluntarily go above and beyond the minimum standards that are required when demonstrating the quality of their honey.
“We want to give people proof that we are authentic and we are doing the right thing. It’s important, we want to win people’s confidence. We work so hard to find our customers and we want to give them that high standard,” says Arno.
Arno and Rene are buzzing with plans for the future of Little Eeden Farm Apiary. In the works are an on-site café with a honey-themed menu that utilises local produce — providing customers with the opportunity to taste the honey surrounded by the very bush that helped produce it — along with a petting zoo for kids and options for farmstay accommodation. Although Rene credits Arno with a lot of the ideas — “He is the one with the bigger vision,” she says — it is clear their strength as a partnership has been a key component to Little Eeden’s success. “She supports my dreams and vision,” says Arno.
You can find Little Eeden Farm Apiary products at Northern Valleys Quality Meats, Chittering Tourist Association and the Northern Valleys Locavore Store. You can also purchase direct from their website at www.littleeedenfarm.com.