California Dreaming

My adventures in which I meet my beekeeping heroes began with a trip to Vermont in the USA, in July 2017, and next week my final two interviews will take place in sunny California. I am seeing Ray Olivarez of Olivarez Honey Bees in Orland then Randy Oliver in Grass Valley. I will be landing in Sacramento on Sunday night local time, which will be 5am Monday according to my body clock. Oh, the joys of long haul flights…

I am enormously grateful to both Ray and Randy for generously allowing me access to their busy lives. It has not been easy to get these interviews but finally the stars have aligned and another voyage to the other side of our planet will soon be underway. The majority of my interviewees are incredibly busy. When they are not up to their necks in the bee season, working fourteen hour days, they are frantically hopping from venue to venue giving lectures, demonstrations and otherwise passing on their expertise to insatiable audiences everywhere.

Ray Olivarez with Mating Nucs
Ray Olivarez with Mating Nucs

So many of the commercial bee farmers that I have met involve their families in the business, which I love. This is not universal; not all offspring dream of mucking in with their parents, but often they do. For many years I ran a business in partnership with my wife and at some point all of our children were involved to some extent. For some it is too claustrophobic; they need to follow their own paths, but I enjoyed being part of  the “family business”. With success came growth and the inevitable changes; I started to realise that I didn’t know the names of all of our staff – we became more corporate, employed managers and brought in systems and controls. I am proud of how well we kept our friendly, open and hard working culture going right up to the point that we sold our shares.

Randy Oliver (Right)
Randy Oliver (Right)

Not that we have discussed it yet, but I believe that Randy Oliver has passed many of the actual beekeeping tasks to his sons so that he can focus more on research. His popular website is testament to his many years of dedicated studies in search of solving the real world practical problems facing the beekeepers of the day. Ray and Tammy Olivarez seem to have involved their family in their gigantic venture and I’m keen to find out more about that. Exmoor Bees and Beehives in Somerset is very much a family affair in which Peter Little, his wife Sandra and their five (yes five!) sons form the bulk of the workforce.  Murray McGregor of Denrosa also benefits from the services of family. All in all family businesses seem to  be a “good thing” and, of course, succession planning for the business and inheritance planning overlap.

What a sunshine year it has been! New Zealand in January, Madeira in February, our incredible summer in Europe and now I’m off to the sunshine state in October. Who knows, Mrs Walrus and I may have a bask on a beach in the Canary Islands before the year is out. I’ve had enough blue skies and sunshine to help me get through the cold, dark and damp months of an English Winter. I know, I am obsessed with the weather, but what else would you expect; I’m English and a beekeeper.

When Spring arrives my project will have evolved from writing my book to trying to promote it. That’s a whole different skill set but I’m willing to give it a go. Bring it on!

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