“We are all intertwined yet we, humans have the biggest affect, and not always in a good way” (Dr Rhodri Owen).
Symbolically bees are associated with love and romance and are considered to be guardians of the natural world. As pollinators, they support the growth of food and plants as well as human food crops. Although there are an estimated 2 trillion bees in the world and 81 million bee colonies, they are dying at alarming rates. We, humans, are killing them yet they are so crucial to the ecosystem that, according to Einstein, man would only have four years left to live if they disappeared off the face of the earth.
Fortunately, we are aware they are dying and we know why, so we can take action to protect them. This is being done by a variety of agencies including private individuals like Kathryn Bonner of Bee Downtown. In Wales, Dr Rhodri Owen and Richard Jones have transformed a disused coal mine into an award-winning producer of Welsh honey, introducing a further 23 million bees to the local area. Located in the former mining village of Llangennech, near Llanelli in the South Wales County of Carmarthenshire, Gilgwenyn Bee Farm was opened in 2010 by Richard, who first started keeping bees at the age of 7. Rhodri, a research scientist became interested in 2008, and despite his initial lack of experience, is now the venture’s head beekeeper using his understanding and experience in scientific analysis to ensure the quality of their products, and the carbon neutrality of their operations.
While a commercial for-profit venture, Cilgwenyn is more concerned with the environment and sustainability than with “making as much money as possible”. To offset their carbon footprint they have planted enough trees to offset 30 years of production and they generate their own solar power electricity, only purchasing green energy when it is necessary to do so. Additionally, all of their products are supplied in recyclable materials. “Our glass jars are made from 88% recycled material”, says Rhodri, “our steel lids are recyclable, while also made from some recycled material, and our labels and boxes are made to be recycled, again with a proportion of recycled material”. So they are plastic free. Not only that but they offer free beekeeper training to former members of the armed services in order to help them overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
With bee colonies and hives in the Brecon Beacons, the Gower Peninsula, and coastal and rural Carmarthenshire, Cilgwenyn produces carbon-neutral raw, unadulterated artisan honey that has won 5 Great Taste Awards, the only honey producer in Wales to have done so. In addition, in 2021, as a result of its holistic approach to business, Cilgwenyn won the prestigious Rising Sustainability Star Award at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair. Commenting on the Award, Rhodri said“We are delighted to be recognised for our work in helping to save our planet. Sustainability and the environment is key to our business plan” and “the more our raw artisan honey is consumed the more everyone is helping to reduce CO2, reduce the effect of business on the climate and create more natural pollinators”.
In an effort to encourage Welsh food producers to focus on sustainability and their climate and ecological impact as well as fair employment strategies, the Welsh Government has created a Sustainability Cluster. Cilgwenyn is a member of the cluster, which operates as a Triple Helix (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz, 1996) of Government, academia, and industry. According to the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales and Trefnydd, Leslie Griffiths, the intention is for Wales to become “one of the most environmentally friendly and socially responsible supply chains in the world as well as continuing to have a global reputation for excellence”. With member organisations such as Cilgwenyn, the country would appear to be well on the way to becoming a world leader in sustainability.
Cilgwenyn is clearly addressing SDGs 15 (Life on Land) and 13 (Climate Action), but it is also addressing SDGs 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) as well as 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). It is very much a Harmonious Enterprise being a commercial for-profit enterprise but one that is more concerned with sustainability than with making as much money as possible at the expense of people and the environment.
Anonymous, (2021), Prestigious sustainability award is won by a Welsh bee farm. Business Wales. 17th December.
Gregory, R. (2021), Welsh bee farm wins prestigious sustainability award. Wales Business News. 20th December.
Kellett, W., (2021), Prestigious sustainability award is won by a Welsh bee farm. Agriland UK News.December 26.
Leydesdorff, L., and Etzkowitz, H., (1996), Emergnce of a Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations. Science and Public Policy.23(5), 279-286.
Misstear, R., (2015), How Bee Keeping is helping Welsh ex-servicemen cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wales Online. 28th November.
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