FOR wool classer turned beekeeper Lindsay Bourke, Tasmania’s honey industry has been a long-time passion.
Now with plans to slow down and focus on value-adding opportunities, Mr Bourke is on the lookout for a business partner.
Mr Bourke started beekeeping in the 1970s at 23 years old.
Three years later he had 200 hives and also worked for the Tasmania Fire Service.
After investing in properties including restaurants and hotels, Mr Bourke gave up beekeeping in his late 30s.
After a 20-year break from the industry he started back full time at about 60 after building a new house and establishing fruit trees that needed to be pollinated.
He ended up with 90 hives and that was the catalyst for his return to beekeeping. After growing his hive numbers for a few years until he reached 1400, Mr Bourke bought an extra 1600 hives with the Sheffield Honey Farm business 14 years ago.
All up Mr Bourke has spent seven years as the national chairman of the Australian Honeybee Industry.
After retiring from that role, he added another 600 hives to the business. Nowadays most of Mr Bourke’s Australian Honey Products business operates out of the Sheffield factory.
The facility had a major expansion about four years ago, including a new extraction line, storage areas and bottling rooms, which was partly funded by the Federal Government.
“The funding was because we’re doing a wonderful job in employing rural people from this area and training beekeepers,” he said.
“We’ve fully trained 12 people who have got their time, and some have stayed with us, and others have moved to other beekeepers, but we put on trainees each year as well.”
He has also been chairman of the Tasmanian Beekeepers Association for a number of years.
Over the years the business has also expanded to include value-adding operation such as Taverners, which produces award-winning honey mead.
The business recently added a number of gold medals to its collection at the Royal Hobart Fine Food awards, including one for its Taverners single-malt whiskey honey mead.
The apiary business has grown to include 4200 hives and employs 10 beekeepers.
Now in his late 70s, Mr Bourke is keen to take on a business partner.
“I have a huge business and I’d like to do more with my honey meads and things and at the moment I don’t have time to promote them.
“We always win a nice number of medals for things like our honey mead, but we hardly even tell anyone about it because we’re so busy.”
Mr Bourke would like to expand the range of honey meads, which he said can take quite a lot of trial and error.
Honey mead generally takes about eight years to mature before it gets the right flavours.
“I really enjoy the distilling side of things, so I’d like to spend more time working on that,” he said.