Our beekeeping journey began many years ago, in 1982 to be exact. 1982 is the year that Gilbert Wolfe turned 14 and decided to get his first summer job. Gilbert was born and raised in the Peace Country which happens to be the home of the Honey Capital of Canada. As such, a summer job working for a local beekeeper in the extracting plant was a natural fit for him. He was hooked from that moment on and knew that beekeeping was his calling.
Two years later, in 1984, when he was only 16 years old, he convinced his father, Marcel Wolfe, to buy him 50 beehives of his own. This purchase was a huge step for the family as Marcel was a grain farmer and not involved in beekeeping. That quickly changed as Gilbert ran his first 50 beehives, employing his father, brothers and friends. The men worked out of a single 12 x 12-foot granary doing all of the work by hand on the family farm.
The operation grew as Gilbert re-invested the money he made on his honey crops into buying more beehives from neighboring beekeepers. By the age of 18 Gilbert was running a 300-beehive operation. This expansion required more space, and so he got creative and bolted two more granaries onto the original granary.
Then the year 1988 came, and the U.S. border closed to imports of honeybee stock. To this day many beekeepers are fighting to have this closure reversed. If you ask any Canadian beekeeper this was a devastating year in beekeeping. At the time, it was common practice to purchase new bees from the US every spring, instead of overwintering the hives. When the news struck that the border had closed, it left many beekeepers with no bees at all. Gilbert had always been different, and so when many beekeepers quit that year – he decided to expand instead. Gilbert bought out a neighboring beekeeper to expand to a total of 900 beehives. That same year, he extracted the biggest honey crop of his life – a whopping 400 POUNDS PER HIVE! It was also the year he met Sharon Goldnick whom he would marry 7 years later and go on to raise a family with.
With 900 beehives under his care, Gilbert quickly outgrew his three granaries. And so, in 1992, Gilbert decided to purchase a 4,000 beehive operation in the neighboring hamlet of Guy, Alberta, still in the Peace River Region. To this day, that operation is our home base.
As he grew, his passion for beekeeping never wavered, and so he looked to beekeeping around the world to see what more could be done for bees here in Canada. Gilbert quickly realized that every country in the world was producing organic honey, but Canadians were not. With that information, and his knowledge of the pristine Peace River region, Gilbert and Sharon decided that organic beekeeping was the best option for their family. This meant raising strong bees without the use of antibiotics, and away from any genetically modified plants. A decision that felt right for the Wolfe family.
In 1996, Gilbert and Sharon welcomed their first child – Paige Wolfe. They also became one of the first beekeepers in Canada to become certified organic that year. To date, the operation is the largest producer of certified organic honey in Canada. The family quickly grew, welcoming their son Brett Wolfe in 1997, and daughter Taylor Wolfe in 1998.
Because honey is a finished product, Gilbert felt that as a bulk beekeeper he wasn’t able to provide anymore value, but knew he had more value to give. With that, the family decided to branch out into the world of retail food products in 2006. Honey Bunny Inc. was born and a food manufacturing facility built in the Peace River region, to process and package Wolfe’s bulk honey.
Two years later, the honey line expanded to include condiments sweetened with honey rather than sugar. The line includes Amazing Dads BBQ Sauce and Bodacious Tomato Ketchup. These condiments were chosen because of the Wolfe family’s love of grilling together (and because we think everyone’s dad is the best on the grill).
The three Wolfe children went on to complete high school and then post-secondary education. Then in 2018, one by one the kids chose to join their parents at the family business in more active roles. Having their children join the family business was never something that Gilbert and Sharon expected when they started a family, but they welcomed the idea.
All five Wolfe family members are still involved in the business now. They very much look forward to the years ahead working together.
A lot has changed since 1982, but a lot hasn’t. Gilbert is still in the bees doing what he loves, but now sharing what he loves with his family, and as many people as he can reach with his jars of honey.
From our hive to yours.