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South Australian beekeeper’s paddock to plate vision earns inaugural Australian Beekeeper Award

10 June 2022

A VISION focused on inspiring creativity with honey and honey products in the food industry has earned Adelaide Hills-based beekeeper, Jake Leske, the inaugural Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) Australian Beekeeper Award, announced to a crowd of 600 delegates at the 4th Australian Honey Bee Congress Dinner in Sydney on Friday night.

Competing for the title against four high-performing beekeeper finalists from across Australia, the 30-year-old said it was an honour to win the newly established award that recognises emerging leaders in the nation’s vital beekeeping industry.

“I was privileged to meet the other state finalists last month and know first-hand the competition was of a very high standard, so am very humbled to win,” Jake said.

“I am excited about building my networks in industry and developing partnerships with other beekeepers to source produce and showcase the variety of Australian honey.”

Jake’s enthusiasm for the industry started after high school, when he worked for a commercial beekeeper for 18 months in the state’s southeast and set out to learn as much as he could about beekeeping. He then chose to take a hiatus and hung up his beekeeping suit to join the Royal Australian Navy as an aircraft technician for six years, before his love of bees drew him back to the Adelaide Hills.

For the past three years, Jake has focused on building his successful beekeeping business. An outdoor enthusiast, he spends his days out in the bush with his bees, pulling honeycomb from his 100 hives scattered around the countryside, making deliveries to customers, and cultivating relationships with local wineries, chefs and farmers, knowing each of them play an important part in helping to fulfil his vision.

Jake’s is now focused on showcasing Australian honey as the premium product he believes it truly is and he suggests too many Australians aren’t aware of the diverse range of honey flavours and products available.

“People easily recognise Australia’s renowned wine regions and varieties, yet many people think honey is limited to the golden spread they drizzle on toast,” he said.

“There’s so much to do to change these perceptions. I’m working with a range of wineries and chefs who all love the concept of paddock to plate and telling a compelling provenance story, and I regularly attend local food festivals to help raise awareness with consumers.

“One of my long-term goals is to have QR codes on packaging and menus linking to the stories about the honey products and videos of the Australian bush where the honey was sourced.”

The Australian bush is critical to the many beekeepers across Australia producing honey from native flora. Jake said changing weather patterns, droughts and bushfires were increasingly impacting the availability of floral sources, placing native bush land revegetation is high on his agenda.

“Focusing on building strong engagement with farmers is key for me. I spend a lot of time planting native trees and shrubs as windbreaks for livestock or on unusable parts of farmers’ land such as swampy areas or sloping hills that aren’t suitable for cropping,” Jake said.

“It’s a win-win for everyone. It provides protection for the farmers’ livestock and ensures access to bee sites for years to come.”

Jake’s tree planting activities to support the long-term sustainability of bee native flora sites also extend to bushland regeneration projects across the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula, with the aim of supporting the region’s environment and creating habitats for wildlife.

Delighted by the calibre of entrants and finalists in the inaugural award program, AHBIC Chair, Trevor Weatherhead, congratulated Jake on winning the Australian Beekeeper Award.

“Jake has a very clear vision for Australian honey and its role in the Australian food scene and is also focused on addressing some of the biodiversity impacts our industry is facing,” Mr Weatherhead said.

“It’s promising to see young and enthusiastic beekeepers showing leadership and initiative to support Australia’s honey bee industry, and helping to change people’s perception about the unique products that are available here in Australia.”