Marie Chapman is one of the few female beekeepers in Australia. She comes from a family of beekeepers but branched out on her own to produce some of the most potent honeys I have ever tasted. We sat down to a beautiful lunch on her back porch at her house on the Sunshine Coast with the team from Gather By. There, we tasted honeys from Gather By’s cabinet including the Booti Booti which means ‘more honey’ from the Booti Booti National Park and some of Marie’s jelly bush (or Manuka) honeys including one with a MGO grading of 11.71 or 25+ UMF. She explained how this highly medicinal honey is good for our health and how, when you are getting into these high numbers and super antibacterial qualities you begin to give those super bugs flying around a super run for their money.
Marie has partnered with Gather By with a test plot planting a variety of leptospurmum. We walked through Marie’s tropical garden to look at the test site and Marie explained why she chose to leave her job as a dental nurse to become a full time beekeeper.
Marie’s grandfather and father were beekeepers, she travelled the world and had a successful career as a dental therapist but the lure of keeping bees brought her back to the hive. Instead of filling and drilling she nurtures and harvests. Beekeeping is in her blood and she feels strongly that this experience is worth a lot. She helps keep the bees healthy and free from disease by knowing what to look for, to spot the signs. She keeps her hives clean, never uses chemicals and she says the bees stay healthy because they also feed on the medicinal honey.
Her decision to work with Gather By and produce the Manuka-type honeys is to to make a better living for herself. She explains that producing just table honey alone is hard unless you want to go big. She prefers to produce quality over quantity AND make a living this way. It’s hard work sometimes, it’s heavy work and challenging when there’s a blowout on the Nissan or she has to change a tyre on the tractor, but ultimately she loves working in and around nature, with ‘her girls’ the bees as she calls them and this, she believes, keeps her healthy too.
Marie’s honey is rare and valuable and I think she is truly a ‘Queen’ of bees. We know that honey over a 12+ is considered medicinal. Honey that is 5+ or 10+ are good for gut health and general wellness. If we eat this everyday it will help prevent illness and tastes pretty good too, but the 12+ honey will help kill infections and used topically can heal rapidly conditions like acne, wounds, burns and abscesses.
Thanks to all the beekeepers and folks I met in Australia and to Gather By for showing me around. My next stop was New Zealand to return to High Peak and catchup with Tom Dunbar who supplies the most amazing honeydew and Royal Manuka to me at Balqees.