Sweet prospects in store

Sweet prospects are in store for an East Devon honey farm

17 February 2010

Work has started near Ottery St Mary on the first all-new bee
farm to be built anywhere in England and Wales for some 15 years.
According to Daniel Basterfield, who with his father Ken is
upgrading a long-standing semicommercial activity to a fully
commercial operation, “It’s also to be the only bee farm I know of
with educational, laboratory and teaching apiary facilities onsite.
This means that as well as producing honey we will be able to
provide comprehensive courses for people wishing to get involved in
the fascinating world of bee-keeping.”

Building started in early January following the award of a
significant grant from the Rural Development Programme for England
(RDPE), which was obtained with the help of Business Link’s Rural
Enterprise Gateway (REG).

This is all part of a long-term strategy that saw Daniel return
to Devon in 2005 to become managing partner in the family business
K. Basterfield and Son, following several years in an office-based
career. At the time, Ken was managing some forty hives – a figure
that has now risen to 120. The plan now is to triple that quantity
on the land the Basterfields bought specially for the purpose,
alongside the new classroom and laboratory.

According to Daniel, “I had thoroughly enjoyed helping my father
with the bees when I was a child in the 70s and 80s, and was very
keen to do something you can see through from end to end.
Bee-keeping is perfect, from raising and breeding through to
harvesting the honey, packaging and sales.”

He was also very keen to help address the widely publicised
challenges facing the bee-keeping and honey-production profession
by helping to promote best practice. “While the situation here is
not nearly as bad as in North America, and has I believe been
exaggerated in the media, there’s no doubt that recent wet summers
have combined with the effects of the Varroa mite to adversely
affect British bee populations. But good hive management keeps bees
strong and healthy, and that is what we wish to teach people.”

Indeed, having a strong local bee population is widely
beneficial in many ways, and the Basterfields regularly lend their
hives to local farmers to improve pollination levels. Honey
products are at the heart of the family business, however, sold
online as ‘Pure Devonshire Honey’ at www.theapiary.co.uk, through
local farmers’ markets and a wide range of retailers in east Devon
(see the website for full details).

Production is set to increase dramatically in the years to come,
and Daniel is clearly excited at the prospect. “I can’t emphasise
enough how grateful I am for the help of Business Link’s REG
service in getting us to this point,” he says. “They were extremely
supportive in helping us progress our application to the South West
Regional Development Agency for the RDPE grant, and we certainly
wouldn’t be where we are now without them.”

According to Business Link REG adviser Graham Woolcock, “Helping
businesses with the admin challenge of applying for an RDPE grant
is one of the main services we provide. In this case, we assessed
the Basterfields’ eligibility for a grant in an in-depth site visit
and review, and then referred them to Sarah Woollacott, who is the
RDPE Project Officer for Devon County Council. The resulting
application and business plan succeeded in obtaining the grant.

“We were particularly delighted that the application was
successful, not least because of the enormous environmental benefit
that the operation will have right across east Devon. What’s more,
the honey is utterly delicious!”

Anyone wishing to find out more about Business Link’s REG
service, including how it can help with RDPE applications, should
call 0845 600 9966 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/southwest/rural.

Ends

All initial press enquiries should be addressed to:

Ron Dyson, The Aurora Partnership – 01308 485707, or David
Wilford, The Aurora Partnership – 01672 564 529 / 07790 774 284

Issued on behalf of Business Link’s Rural Enterprise Gateway by
The Aurora Partnership

Notes to Editors

REG Services

Delivered by a dedicated network of Project Officers, Advisers
and approved independent consultants, these comprise a range of
support activities including:

  • Group Support – provides groups of farming and land-based
    businesses that work together collaboratively with action-planning
    advice and access to grant-funding for consultancy, training and
    networking opportunities;
  • 1to1 Support – involves a part-funded (up to 70%) one-day visit
    by a REG-approved consultant to an individual farming business for
    an overall business review and the opportunity to discuss issues
    and ideas;
  • Grant Funding and Brokerage – REG is the main south west
    contact point for farm businesses seeking grant funding, with a
    focus on RDPE funding. Applicants can be put in touch with
    professional support services to help develop firm proposals;
  • Other services – include access to the latest knowledge,
    research and information via Knowledge Transfer resources and the
    REG website which acts as an online portal (http://www.regsw.org.uk/).