The real taste of Pemberton: Dennis Taylor’s Raw Wildflower Honey

Meet the man behind the mask, king of my pantry, succour of the sweet tooth, Dennis Taylor. A landscaper by day, and bee-whisperer by night, Dennis sells raw wildflower honey and freerange duck and chicken eggs from his Pemberton Valley homestead, on a seasonally available basis. He explains to us why living in Pemberton is awesome and how tending bees is actually therapeutic.


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Who are you and what do you do? Your business is Garden Pro Landscaping…and you are now the Sweet King of my Pantry.
My name is Dennis and I’m originally from Burnaby. I have a Horticulture background, as well as music and environmental courses back in college. In 1998 almost immediately after college I started up Garden Pro Landscaping in the Lower Mainland and had a small amount of work in Whistler. I decided to make the jump and fulfill my goal of moving to the country and bought an old cabin on some land here in the Pemberton Valley with hopes of having a small, self sufficient farm. While it hasn’t always been easy I am very happy how everything is turning out.
 
Where does honey fit into your life and work?
I’ve found working with bees to be incredibly relaxing after a hard week of work. Being the owner-operator of a business requires long hours and multi-tasking pretty much every second of the work week.
Working with thousands of stinging insects forces you to be calm and thoughtful.
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Why should people seek out local honey rather than storebought?
There are lots of good reasons! Supporting local business is of course great for the local economy and environment. Many people also find that local honey lessens pollen allergies when taken daily. Local food security is another excellent reason to support all different types of food producers in our area.
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Does all honey taste the same?
Most nectar sources seem to produce a unique honey. That said, unless you have hundreds to thousands of acres of a single species of flowering crop (such as a monoculture of blueberries, clover, fireweed or pumpkins etc) the honey produced is most likely to be a blend.
What is the flavour of Pemberton?
I consider it wildflower honey as bees don’t hit up the potatoes for nectar, and most other locally grown crops are relatively minor when it comes to the quantity of nectar required for honey production.
Fireweed seems to be their mainstay in mid to late summer, but pussy willows, dandelion, wild raspberry/blackcaps, clover, goldenrod and many more are noticeably used by the bees. Bees fly 3-5km in search of nectar and I’m sure they go up into the hills in search of anything that might be blooming.
 
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Do you have a favourite honey?
My favourite is of course honey from the farm here, and better still is sneaking a taste while all suited up while beekeeping. Some single source honeys worth trying include blueberry, lavender, and citrus orchard. A few years ago while quite deep in the Amazon I was lucky enough to experience honey sourced from the rainforest, which was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I like all all honey.
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Why do you keep bees?
I’m attracted to the idea of self sufficient living and bees fit in quite well here. Aside from the honey, bees pollinate fruits and veggies as well as everyone else’s up to 5km away, and they of course make beeswax that can be made into many things including salves and candles. Honey itself is regularly used to relieve pollen allergy symptoms, while both honey and propolis have antibiotic properties.
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Where do you keep your beehives?
The hives are mainly overlooking the veggies, berries and orchard. The observation hives (hives with plexiglass windows for viewing!) are up on the deck where visitors can safely view the colonies working. I also keep a few hives at the Oberson’s orchard in D’arcy.
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How did you get into it?
The winter I moved to Pemberton was spent borrowing all of the farming books from the library. There was a great beekeeping article in an old copy of Harrowsmith that really set it off.
What type of challenges do local beekeepers face?
Ensuring the apiary is safe from bears is probably number one. They require an extra hot electric fence or other form of barrier. Beyond that it’s mainly our climate. Fall, winter and early spring can be cold and damp, and some colonies really struggle with that. It is an expensive proposition with plenty of tough lessons to learn.
 
There are a few other people keeping bees in Pemby – Jennie Helmer, the Bubbs, Hare Family Farm… How much capacity does Pemberton have for local bee-keeping? And what are the challenges to manage?
Yes, the number of beekeepers seems to grow every spring. I haven’t noticed any challenges to date, everyone seems to have their own markets. If anything it could be a benefit to everyone if some type meeting of local beekeepers to discuss local issues and hopefully learn from each others experiences. I’ve been at it since 2004 without a mentor and have plenty to learn still!
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Why Pemberton, for you? What made you want to build your home here?
The perfect mix of mountains, rural living, incredible scenery, community and the good dirt can’t be beat.
Where can we purchase your honey?
Sales are mainly through farm gate sales. Delivery may be possible at certain times. It’s best to call/email ahead for available sizes and pricing. (604)932-7879 or email info@gardenprowhistler.com.
All photos courtesy Dennis Taylor.
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