Retired Beekeeper Furthers his Education at Fanshawe
According to Henry Hiemstra, "There is an aura of mystery when it comes to beekeeping, because most people do not understand what bees do and are somewhat fearful of the tail end of a bee, so to them beekeepers are a strange lot."
But bees play a vital role as pollinators in nature and produce honey, a natural sweetener, from the nectar gathered. This has antiseptic properties that promote healing, and pollens and resins gathered are also beneficial to mankind. As for that stinger, it's a means of defense.
Hiemstra's exposure to beekeeping began at an early age. "I was born on a mixed farm at a time when growing your own food was the norm. My father kept a number of hives for the honey they produced and their pollination services to his orchard and I always had an inclination to explore the wonderful world of creation," he recalls.
It was not until much later in life that Hiemstra saw an opportunity to change careers. "In 1975, at age 32, with my wife and our three young children, I left a good government job in Ottawa and moved to Aylmer to take over the operation of a retiring beekeeper," he says. "With little business knowledge and beekeeping experience, this turned out to be quite a challenge, but with the team work of my wife and later, the children, the business became a successful enterprise."
The beekeeping business Henry and his family created is the well-known Clovermead Apiaries. Now run by their son Chris and his wife Christy and their children, Clovermead has grown since the early days when Henry sold the honey from his garage and later the log cabin to now include an adventure farm, wagon rides, farm animals, tours and more.
"My advice to everyone looking to start their own business would be to get a good education," he says. "Work hard, be honest, be observant of others in the business and be friends with them, not a competitor."
After Hiemstra retired from Clovermead, he had more time to pursue other activities and having always been interested in art and history in school, took a few non-credit courses at Fanshawe College. This led to his decision to try for an Arts certificate.
Hiemstra enrolled in the Creative Arts certificate program in combination with courses offered through Continuing Education and the Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) service.
"The program opened new doors and experiences for me and it was the only one of its kind offered in the area," Hiemstra says. "It was never my intention to become a commercial artist, but it did open my eyes to better appreciate the various art forms I encounter daily and I better understand the skill and amount of time involved to create art."
Hiemstra believes learning should never stop, no matter how old you are. "To stay healthy one has to stay active both physically and mentally," he says. "Going back to school and learning new skills and ideas, and interacting with others enriches your life."