We use loads of fragrant, moisturizing honey in our haircare inventions like Queen Bee Hair Honey, but where does it all come from? Our Sustainable Lush Fund team works collaboratively with suppliers and producers, including beekeepers, to develop regenerative farming practices and community projects that create a lasting positive impact.
Honey’s thicker than water
Theo Fredrich Sr. stands in the shade of a towering oak tree as a warm wind rustles the leaves overhead. He leans in closely and in a hushed voice, as if he’s letting me in on a secret, says, “Somehow, there’s a correlation between bees and humans. We even have the same body temperature—37 degrees.”
The 83-year-old master beekeeper has dedicated his entire life to bees and has operated the Fredrich’s Honey business for 50 years. “He even designed and built his home in the shape of a honeycomb,” laughs his son, Theo Jr.
The family-owned and operated honey farm is located in the small community of Cedar, on the east coast of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. Just under 40 miles across the water from the bustling city of Vancouver, “The Island”, as it’s known to locals, envelops you in a palpable calmness the moment you arrive. The winding road leading towards Fredrich’s weaves between planted fields and forests, as the bright spring sunshine illuminates the verdant rolling hills in the distance.
It’s easy to understand why Theo Sr. chose this place to start a business and raise his family when he emigrated from Germany in the 1960s. He and his brother began Fredrich’s Honey in 1966, but the creation of the business wasn’t Theo’s first foray into the world of bees. He describes his attraction to bees as one of his earliest memories: as a child he’d rescue them from the tormenting hands of other kids. When he came of age, he took a 3-year beekeeping apprenticeship and has been singly focused on bees ever since.
After decades in the beekeeping business, Theo Sr. has formed a deep and understanding relationship with bees that’s obvious even to the untrained eye. While tending to his bees he wears just a short-sleeved shirt—no protective suit, gloves or veil in sight. He believes that by simply treating the bees with respect and working in slow, measured movements, no protection is required. His motto, he says with a chuckle, is “Beekeep like you’re half asleep”. He happily shares his time-tested methods and knowledge with beginner beekeepers at a workshop he hosts monthly.
Over the last few years, Theo Sr. has passed the majority of the company’s operations on to his son Theo Jr. and daughter-in-law Taylor. Although he’s getting on in age, Theo Sr. isn’t quite ready to give up his passion yet— “My dad and I still work together almost every day,” says Theo Jr.
Over the last few decades, however, things have changed immensely for bees. Beekeepers are up against huge challenges like increased pesticide usage, disease and climate change, leading to unprecedented hive losses. The methods and techniques that worked historically for Theo Sr. don’t necessarily work in today’s environment, and beekeepers need to adapt to keep their hives healthy. “He’s pretty open-minded for someone who’s been doing this for so many years,” says Taylor of her father-in-law. “Whatever is going to be best for the bees, he’s on board.” The blend of Theo Sr.’s decades of experience and new techniques introduced by Theo Jr. and Taylor are creating thriving bees at the Fredrich farm.
Keeping it local
One way the Fredrich family is adapting for the wellbeing of their bees is through a partner project with Lush called the Alternative Pollination Contract. Developed collaboratively by Theo Jr. and Sustainable Lush Fund team members, the program is designed to help small-scale beekeeperswork in cooperation with local farmers for a mutually beneficial result.
Our connection to bees that Theo Sr. describes runs deep—the plants and crops that we depend on for survival need bees for pollination. And with bee populations at risk, our livelihood is at risk too. But local beekeepers and farmers have an exciting opportunity to work hand-in-hand for a common good: beehives, when lent out to farms, help with crop pollination and increase annual yields. The local farms provide a rich food source for the bees, which helps them produce quality honey. Yet some farmers aren’t totally convinced of the benefits of having hives at their farm, and aren’t willing to risk the cost to experiment with the results.
When local farmers aren’t interested in investing in local bees to boost pollination, small-scale beekeepers are often forced to seek partnerships with commercial farms instead. This, however, tends to be dangerous for the bees—large-scale farms use more pesticides, monoculture planting methods (where one type of plant covers huge farms) provide little variety in food sources for the bees, and traveling to farms that are further afield is stressful on the hives. Alternatively, local small-scale farms provide a healthy, biodiverse environment for the bees: the crops are often surrounded by borders of native foliage providing natural variety in food sources, fewer pesticides are used and travel time is significantly reduced.
In an effort to keep bees happy and healthy, the Alternative Pollination Contract is creating opportunities for small-scale beekeepers to place their bees in local, healthy environments. The Sustainable Lush Fund is subsidizing hives on local farms for the duration of the growing season. The farmers will track their results through the summer, providing insight into whether the hives have improved their season’s harvest over last year. Though there are many other factors to consider (like weather conditions and pests), Theo Jr. is optimistic that the data will show the value in the partnership of beekeepers and farmers. In return for supporting the Alternative Pollination Contract, Lush will receive honey from the Fredrich Farm for use in the production of our fresh handmade products like Queen Bee Hair Honey, Honey Trap Lip Balm and Honey I Washed The Kids Soap.
Together, Theo Jr. says, “We can make healthier choices for our beehives, and the farmers benefit too which is kind of awesome. There’s a lot of potential to keep connecting farmers with beekeepers and grow the project”, which would ultimately create a future that’s strong and fruitful for bees, humans and the earth. The connection between us has never been sweeter.