Lyndon Fenlon from the Urban Honey Co wrote an email the other day and it just blew me away (that’s Lyndon in the middle delivering hives to the Rialto on his beekeeper’s bike) . He announced that he was closing the Urban Honey Co he’d founded and was heading out to start anew in East Gippsland. The amazing thing wasn’t that he was leaving but what he was leaving behind. The email laid out what he’d done over the past 12 years and I suddenly saw the scope of his vision and the persistence and patience it took to make it happen.
I first met Lyndon about 7 years ago when he came to CERES Farm as a hobbyist beekeeper looking for somewhere to put his hives. He was desperate, he’d literally run out of room at his house and had so many hives he was worried the Dept of Primary Industry were going to shut him down. For years he been asking everywhere – local councils, green groups, churches and schools but nobody wanted his hives everybody was afraid of swarms & stings and anaphylaxis & potential lawsuits.
CERES had had hives in the past but they’d belonged to the previous farm manager and he’d taken them when he left. I couldn’t believe my luck, here was somebody who wanted to keep bees in the city and we had no bees. I jumped at the chance and one night not long after we brought the hives back to CERES on our market truck. In exchange for a site for his hives we made a deal that Lyndon would sell some of his honey to our Market and he’d set up a free bee group to teach local people how to work with bees.
The bee group started up on the 3rd Sunday of the month and Lyndon opened his business, the Urban Honey Co. Lyndon was a purist, he did everything manually and transported his equipment by bike. I respected his choices but thought a van would have made things a lot easier. As I read Lyndon’s email however it all became clear, I knew he had environmental motives for being so low tech but the “aha” moment came when he explained, that working this way capped how big he could grow which meant if he wanted beekeepers across Melbourne he would have to find them and teach them .
Lyndon’s legacy has literally honey-coated Melbourne. In the last 10 years everything about urban beekeeping has changed and Lyndon’s fingerprints are all over that change. He built a business that let him quit his office job and taught others to do the same, he started free-to-learn bee groups around Melbourne where he taught over 1000 student beekeepers, he introduced bees into primary schools and developed gentle beekeeping techniques that have inspired urban honey businesses in America, India and the UK.
On his retirement Lyndon rode his 3 wheeler bee-bike 21 hours straight out to his new place in East Gippsland. And am I ever looking forward to seeing what he does next.
The bee group still meets at CERES on the 3rd Sunday of every month, under the guidance of the Practical Beekeeper Benedict.
By Chris Ennis