Honey bees gather around the opening to a hive at Fallentimber Meadery in Water Valley on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. This opening leads to the open-display hive which is shown in tours at the meadery. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

Fallentimber Meadery has connected beekeeping, tourism and community for the last 12 years.

Nathan Ryan, founder and operations manager at Fallentimber Meadery, grew up on the land his business stands on.

The meadery is located in Water Valley, Alberta, and it began as a recreational farm with only 10 hives when Nathan’s grandfather purchased it in 1969.

“Nathan grew up [as] the only one interested in being a beekeeper, but unfortunately, he has anaphylaxis, so he cannot be around the bees whatsoever. He risks his life everyday,” said Emily Dewolfe, the host at Fallentimber.

Ryan found another way to work in the bee industry despite his inability to be a beekeeper. He came up with a new idea while he was in the ecotourism program at Mount Royal University.

Emily DeWolfe the host at Fallentimber Meadery in Water Valley, stands outside the gift shop on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. Dewolfe has worked at Fallentimber since 2015. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

“He wanted to find a way to bring tourism and beekeeping together, which was very difficult. In order to have people come to our facility, it would have to be thousands [of people] to make any kind of money,” said Dewolfe.

“He syphoned a little bit of honey from his dad and started fermenting with that, and he did a really good job at making mead, so he went from there. [Ryan] took it to his professor and said hey I have this idea of changing the bee tourism to maybe a mead tourism, so he actually came up with this meadery. His family supported him completely and they built on their old family farm.”

Mead is an alcohol produced by the fermentation of the sugars in honey. Fallentimber’s mead is distributed throughout Alberta to craft beer markets, farmers markets, and restaurants.

The meadery also offers tours. Visitors can see the process of mead-making: the life cycle of a bee, the production and harvesting of honey, and distilling.

Running a farm

A wood engraved sign at Fallentimber Meadery in Water Valley on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. The meadery has been open since 2010. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

The meadery has a 70km radius and 20 full-time staff. Like any farm in Alberta, Fallentimber runs into its own challenges.

“A lot of people are not aware of where we are located. They will pick us up in a craft beer market, or something, and they’ll realize that’s Water Valley that’s only an hour from Calgary,” said Dewolfe.

“We really wanted to showcase where the bees are living as well as how the family was raised out here, and so moving to something a little bit more commercial was not ideal to us. We wanted to maintain the farm life. We wanted to bring people out to Mountain View county; bring awareness to our community.”

Tough times ahead

Bees work inside a hive at Fallentimber Meadery in Water Valley on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. This is an open display hive which is shown during tours at the meadery. (Photo by Robin Contos/The Emery Weal)

Fallentimber strides onward to grow the business despite the looming issue of climate change effecting their smallest workers.

The meadery is distributing in more markets, and they’re participating in events such as Alberta Open Farm Days to gain more recognition for both their business and community.

“Like regular agriculture, we have a lot of problems with weather changing. Global warming is obviously an issue here with the difference of the seasons changing because when we’re harvesting, when our bees are coming out of hibernation and how many bees are coming out of hibernation depends on how cold it was over the winter. So, the biggest problem would probably be that,” said Dewolfe.

“As well as just a lot more people are spraying lots of insecticides and stuff like that, and if they get too close to our hive, that can effect us.”

Fallentimber is open to the public on the weekends for tours (many of which are led by Ryan himself), and their products are available in markets across Alberta.

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