Government of New Brunswick
MarrsSweetSyrup

By: Danielle Andrus

When Tavis Marr bought his land in the small community of Zionville, it seemed like the perfect property. Seventy-five acres of unspoiled farmland surrounded by wild flowers, berry bushes and acres of natural woods, it had all of the characteristics could support a successful garden and fruit tree yield. When Marr set out to begin his planting in 2010, he noticed one crucial element was missing: the pollinators. 

“I noticed that there were no pollinators around so I thought about it and decided that I needed some for my gardens,” Marr said. “I ordered two nucleus colonies from the local bee store and it all started from there.”

That same year, he decided to begin his journey into beekeeping. Tavis connected with one of the more well-known commercial beekeepers in the Keswick Ridge area, Earl Gilbey. Having no previous experience working with honey bees, Earl shared the ins and outs of beekeeping and his years of knowledge with Tavis and left him with some valuable advice. “He was only ever a phone call away when I needed a helping hand,” Marr said. “The best piece of advice I received is when you think you have figured out the bees, they will always do something unexpected, so you will always ‘bee’ learning.” Soon after, Marr was connected with the Central Beekeepers Association, who provided him the information and the guidance he needed in order for his hives to survive.

“The group of beekeepers were a wealth of information and were more than happy to share their tricks of the trade with a ‘newbee’,” Marr said. “Everyone was more than willing to share and help.”

NacawickFamily

A machinist by trade, Tavis worked feverishly on building his hives by himself in his spare time until 2014 when his brother Brandon, and Brandon’s partner, Linda, joined in on the family business. Having previously partnered together in a family maple syrup venture, Marr had no concerns about working together on his blooming beekeeping business that is now known as Marr’s Sweet Syrup. 

“We find our strengths and capitalize on them, and with the business staying family oriented, we have made it work” Marr said. “We both work all our bees as we both have full time jobs, sometimes it’s a challenge, but we split the work and make it work.” 

As their business began to grow, so did their need for hives, space and ultimately, more equipment. They began to purchase new bee suits, honey extractors and tools for working another bee yard in Nackawic on Brandon and Linda’s land. The demands of the bees initially lead to some challenges for the family; beekeeping is a year round job and they found the biggest challenge was the actual start-up of the business. Marr said sourcing product, finding a local company to produce labels for them and the demands for preparing for next year in their spare time was tough, but ultimately worth it in the end.

The Marr Family’s passion for beekeeping has carried down to a new generation of beekeepers: Tavis’ 7 year old daughter, Brooklynn. Marr said that she is always ready to work with the bees, whether it is painting or building boxes or testing lip balm flavours.

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“She helps paint the boxes and assembles various other parts” Marr said. “Even next year, she wants her own bee suit so she can come up and help with the hives in the summer.”

While there are many losses and gains attributed to beekeeping, Marr said helping the bees make a comeback and supplying the community with true, raw local honey and beeswax products is one of the most rewarding parts about being a beekeeper.

To do this, they bring in the honey from their bee yards and using an uncapping knife to take off the outside cappings (otherwise known as wax). The excess honey from their hives is inserted into stainless steel extraction spinners and spun out into a different section. The honey is then filtered out through a sheet of honey cloth (the same texture and idea as cheese cloth) and then packaged in reusable ‘mason’ jars.

“We only take the excess honey from our hives,” Marr said. “We always leave our hives with the two bottom brood boxes full of stores…we will only take honey from third box and above, that way we ensure our hives will not starve and they have lots of food for when they come back out in the spring”.

HoneyBee

So what happens to all the leftover beeswax? Rest assured that none of it goes to waste. Linda uses the extra beeswax to create high-quality, natural lip balms which only use pure beeswax, olive oil and are flavoured with pure essential oils. She has also created a body balm which can help with any skin issue from dry skin to razor burn to diaper rash. Marr said it is because of the propolis and the pollen left in the wax that makes it work extremely well.  

They are also in the midst of selling filtered wax for candle and cosmetic making, perfect for the local DIYers, and have even dived into selling beeswax chunks for wax melters which can help filter the air.

Marr’s Sweet Syrup’s products are now being sold in CSA’s, galleries, farmers markets, spas, and landmark gift shops across the province. Tavis said local support in purchasing their products goes right back into buying more bee supplies and helping the bees make a comeback. 

“I love local because it keeps more money here and helps out the local farmers and our economy,” he said. “Most farmers are more than happy to explain how they produce their crops and sometimes you can even get a tour…which I find a lot of kids don’t get to see anymore.”

For more information on honeybees in New Brunswick or to purchase Marr’s Sweet Syrup’s products visit their Facebook page or contact Tavis at tavismarr@hotmail.com