By Susan Hollis | Photos by Belle White
In search of a new rural life on the Island, Lindsay and Jason Dault packed up their three kids and moved from the Mainland to Lindsay’s childhood neighbourhood on the Saanich Peninsula. Today, they run Country Bee Honey Farm, a mixed-use farm and retail centre.
When Lindsay Dault gets her morning coffee, it’s with the swift, sure determination that governs all her decisions — whether it’s moving to the Island to build a new business from scratch or choosing the type of honey she’s going to sweeten her java with that day.
Walking through her Western-style, bee-everything retail store on West Saanich Road, Lindsay is the epitome of an entrepreneur who has hit her stride. She bounces numbers and inventory questions off her assistant manager, Jordanna Reid, while surveying the scores of bee-related merchandise lining shelves she built by hand with her husband, Jason Dault.
Bees — specifically honeybees — are a long-time passion of both Daults, and selling their honey and all things bee-inspired makes a lot of sense to a family who has been involved in the apiary trade for decades.
“I’ve had 42 jobs in my life — I’ve literally done every job under the sun,” says Lindsay, “from snowmobile and ATV guiding to hairdressing to running a chocolate shop. I love cafés. I love hanging out and talking to people, so this works, but I’ve always loved bees.
“Jay’s grandfather kept bees, so [Jay] got hives when we first met, and I started helping him. When we decided to start doing it as a business, I realized I’d better learn what goes on with them.”
Lindsay’s ability to dive into the deep end could be why the type of business she and Jason decided to pursue with Country Bee Honey Farm (formerly Urban Bee Honey Farm) has been well-received.
A beekeeper since childhood, Jason introduced Lindsay to the art of apiaries, but the two had a hard time getting supplies while living in Tsawwassen. To meet their own — and others’ — needs, they started a small beekeeping supply store, Urban Bee Supplies, out of a backyard shed in 2009 — just as they were expecting their first baby.
“I was like, ‘I’m about to have a kid — I’m going to have so much free time on my hands. I’m going to be bored,’” laughs Lindsay.
To round out the supply side and meet the educational demands stemming from the rise of the urban apiary trend in Metro Vancouver, Lindsay started teaching classes on beekeeping and fell deeply in love with bees in the process.
She started dreaming of living in a place where she could combine her skills to create the perfect business, namely a honey farm with a strong eco-tourism bent and a merchandise branch. Her childhood hometown of Saanich seemed like the perfect fit.
Jason, however, was locked into a corporate job as director of operations with a recycling company that required his presence on the mainland. But with the arrival of the couple’s twins, Lindsay began itching to have more space and a place to grow both her kids and her ideas.
“I just wanted to be home. I wanted to go to the grocery store and run into people I know, that sort of thing,” she says. “Jason was reluctant to move at first, but all he did [on the mainland] was drive. He was always stuck in traffic, and it was super stressful, so he finally said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
In 2015, the Daults purchased an 11-acre property on West Saanich Road that had all the potential to create their honey farm. The gently sloping lot had a farmhouse set back on the land and a swath of swampy land next to the road that they would eventually transform into a rustic, western-themed retail store and outbuildings for their menagerie of animals.
They managed the bulk of the work themselves with the help of family and friends and even their kids, while planning short-, medium- and long-term goals for the property as they went along. Any trees they cleared were milled on site and turned into tables, seating and display cases for the shop, and the discovery of a natural aquifer led to the creation of a large, lush pond in the midst of the pollinating gardens that front the property.
“It’s definitely a lot of work — always it’s work — but it has been really great to do, especially with our children — they’re outside all the time, always playing or feeding the animals,” says Jason. “For me and Linds to express our creativity together is pretty awesome too.”
Though the Daults initially held onto their first venture, Urban Bee Supplies in Vancouver, they recently sold it to focus on Country Bee Honey Farm and have moved away from the beekeeping supply realm to expand into other honey and bee-related products. Sales at the store run the gamut — honey in a multitude of flavours is sold in ounces up to 300-pound orders and the shelves are filled with products from local vendors who make everything from encaustic beeswax art, jewelry, tea, health supplements, elixirs and raw honeycomb.
While the Daults still operate a number of hives that pollinate blueberry and blackberry crops on the mainland, they also have 80 hives spread throughout the backyards of friends and family across the Saanich Peninsula, guaranteeing a steady supply of organic, carefully curated honey named after the streets the hives are stationed on.
“I think a lot of the way people keep their bees is how they keep themselves. If you’re not healthy and don’t understand the relationship between nutrition and your personal health, your bees might not do so well,” says Lindsay of her thriving hives.
“Our bees are spread all over the Peninsula so they have lots of different food options, and we don’t condense them into one area where they are fighting for food — and they are doing so well.”
The Right Decision
Though the Daults have a number of hives on-site at Country Bee Honey Farm as well, the main attraction beside the store are the charming outbuildings that are home to a number of goats and fowl, which Lindsay is quick to admit is not her bag.
“It was my husband’s way and excuse of getting animals on the property,” says Lindsay. “He was like, ‘If we build this western town we have to put animals in it, and then we get to have animals and people will love them, and they’ll draw people in,’ so he comes up with all these reasons why we have to do these things, just so he gets to have the animals.”
Jason’s love of animals means the Daults share their land with Nigerian Dwarf sheep, babydoll sheep, peacocks, pheasants, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl and quail. Their care is primarily the responsibility of the children, who feed and water them before and after school. The kids are also in charge of weeding a bucket a day from the pollinating and herb gardens. According to Lindsay, the kids are also constantly dreaming up new ways to make money.
“They’re little entrepreneurs; they come up with all these ideas,” she laughs. “I’m like, ‘You’re not selling that at the store!’ but they keep coming up with new plans.”
The life they’ve built on the Island isn’t far off the Daults’ vision of a perfect childhood for their kids, not to mention one that closely mirrors Jason’s own youthful enterprises in rural Ontario.
As a 12-year-old, Jason was breeding rabbits, guinea pigs and gerbils and would call into the local radio station to promote his livestock sales, so watching his kids take care of their own animals, as well as dream up myriad ways to make their own money, gives him the quiet satisfaction that moving from the mainland was the right decision.
To supplement the farm’s retail income, the Daults planted 900 Christmas trees on the property in 2015. The trees will be ready for harvesting — U-pick style — in around two years. They’ve also been capitalizing on new friendships in the region, having recently hosted their first long-table dinner featuring Indian cuisine from Sutra Foods, with plans to host more in the future.
The 2020 summer season will see the establishment of self-guided walking tours through their pollination fields, showcasing the range of plants ideal for bees and other pollinators. Their hope is that the tours will appeal to tourists and locals, and will inspire people who live on the Island to establish best planting practices to support bees, butterflies and other pollinating local wildlife.
“It’s pretty amazing when you walk in our fields,” says Jason. “The whole place has a hum to it, and there are butterflies and bumblebees and honeybees everywhere — it’s really cool.”
This article is from the March/April 2020 issue of YAM