The shoo-ing of bees is a rather normal thing for most. Who wants to be stung by some little pest? I too am guilty of cursing at those little, fuzzy, yellow & black bugs. While my ignorant hand is swatting the air aimlessly like a fool, there is a pro bee movement that is bringing attention to a huge threat to the worlds food supply. Some superb initiatives are taking place in Toronto, forcing many people to put down the fly swatter, and think twice before attacking a curious honeybee.
Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative
The Toronto Beekepers Co-operative started around 2002 with a small group of volunteers that worked hand in hand with experienced beekepers. The movement for beekeeping in Toronto’s urban core was born. Their goal is simple, to educate the public about the value of bees to Toronto’s landscape and ecosystem. I caught up with the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative at the Live Green Toronto Festival in July, where new recruits and volunteers happily educated curious attendees, both young and old. While most were watching the live music acts, I was drawn to the beekepers white tent and superhero-esque safety masks.
Local Toronto Honey Products
The Toronto Beekepers Co-operative not only explained the importance of honeybee’s in the environment, something most people are aware of these days, but they also sold local made goods, such as lip balm, hand creams, and yes, jars and jars of honey. They happily showed that there isn’t anything to be scared of with Honeybees. They’re quite peaceful and will only attack if you’re posing a threat to the hive. They have better things to do, like pollinating the worlds food supply and hanging out with their very extended family.
Fairmont Royal Yorks Grassroots Movement
I had a great grandfather who was a beekeeper in Saskatchewan. He passed away when I was young, but my mother would always remind me how smart of a man he was. He farmed most of his life, made his own batteries, rebuilt a train caboose just because he could, and whenever a part in his vehicle would break down, he’d make a replacement part rather than go out and buy one. Aside from being a jack of all trades, he must have had a sweet tooth, because he kept multiple hives throughout his years.
I always felt that the ingenuity of yesteryear had gone the way of the dinosaurs. That is, until I heard about the success at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto. This “grassroots” movement isn’t just for the alternative lifestylists living off the grid. The Fairmont Royal York is taking a very eco-friendly and local approach to some of the goods and services they offer to their guests.
The Fairmont Royal York’s Apiary
The Fairmont Royal York has been using the roof of their historical hotel to care for six beehives. With the help of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative they are now using this local on-site honey in many of the dishes they serve to their guests. The success of this first roof-top apiary encouraged other Fairmont Hotels across North America to join the movement. During peak season in the summer, over 350,000 honeybees live and thrive in the six beehives on Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York, producing roughly 450 pounds of Fairmont honey per year!
The Fairmont Royal York has also been growing their own herbs. Order a Mojito at the bar, the crushed mint leaves you find in your glass were literally picked from the roof of the hotel. I should also mention they’re delicious.
The Fairmonts Homegrown Experience
This eco-friendly, local movement is a superb edition to the Fairmont Royal York’s already astounding hotel. The hotel is conveniently located across the street from Toronto’s Union Station, which worked out perfectly with my cross Canada by VIA Rail adventure. If there’s a place to splurge after being on the Train for hours, it’s got to be in Toronto’s Fairmont. Seeing a big city like Toronto paving the way for more homegrown experiences is something Torontonians should be extremely proud of!
Cities are evolving quickly as more and more people leave the rural parts of Canada to live in a big city. I can’t help but feel like we’re making steps in the right direction. This desire to be a little more self sufficient, a lot more green, and best of all, living in symbiosis with the world around us, including plants, animals, humans, and fuzzy, black and yellow insects.
Big thanks to the folks at Toronto Tourism for helping show off their city, and extra big thanks to the Fairmont Royal York for letting me kick back and explore their hotel for a night.