Jess Curtis, an 18-year old beekeeping apprentice based in the Cardrona Valley, is the recipient of the 2019 Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship, an award established to encourage young New Zealanders into the apiculture industry.

The scholarship covers approved best practice training costs of up to $2000, a one-year membership to ApiNZ and attendance at the ApiNZ national conference in the year the scholarship is awarded.

For Jess the scholarship is a huge boost in her plans to transform a childhood passion into a valued part of her family’s farm.  “My Granddad has kept bees on the farm for the last 20 years as a hobby and to help with crop pollination.  As a young kid I always found it fascinating, and then last year after returning from travelling I saw a real opportunity to expand the business.”

Jess aims to grow the current 50 hives kept at her family sheep and beef farm, Branch Creek Station, into a thriving business specialising in boutique local honey that also can teach customers about the importance of sustainability and beekeeping.  “My long-term vision is to show people bees in their natural environment by doing tours and promoting sustainable living.  I want to help people connect with the land and love it like I do.”

To achieve this goal, Jess applied for the Apiculture NZ apprentice in apiculture scheme and is now working with Taylor Pass Honey in Wanaka.  Steve Wootton, of Taylor Pass Honey, says his team has been impressed with Jess’s initiative.  “She’s been with us for about two months and she’s been really proactive, she wants to learn as much as she can about beekeeping and more, like the compliance side of things.”

He says they were thrilled to hear about her success: “It’s really great to see Jess be able to move forward in this way.”

Jess’s love for bees started at age five when her Granddad bought her a bee suit.  “I was scared of bees back then, but I was always fascinated when Granddad came home covered in bees and smelling of honey.  Once he got me the suit and we went out a few times, I just loved it.”

She is now back to beekeeping with her Granddad part-time, as well as learning from the Taylor Pass Honey team who keep up to 100 further hives on the farm.  She sees the scholarship as an important way of connecting to the wider industry, especially other young beekeepers, and learning as much as possible.  “I’m so happy and grateful to have won it.”

Scholarship donor and founder, Neil Mossop, says it is an honour to support young beekeepers like Jess.  “It is exciting to see motivated young people coming into the industry who are committed to the highest standards of beekeeping.  We look forward to seeing Jess’s future success.”

Winner of the 2019 ApiNZ Ron Mossop Youth Scholarship Jess Curtis