Le Rucher du Comtois: it is in the heart of the Jura mountains and embraced by the Doubs river that I decided to set up my 500 beehives, not far from Besançon, the farm has a 20 km perimeter. My apiary is located in France-Comté, hence its name, Le Comtois. My swarms of bees reach altitudes of 618m since Doubs is one of the highest French regions. Franche-Comté has forged its gastronomic identity through its landscapes and lands where farmers share and bring to life their ancestral expertise.
Le Rucher du Comtois works mainly in the production of honey harvested on the various plateaus of the region in order to obtain a variety resulting only from our terroir. Our production is dependent on the work of our bees, which are subject to the vagaries of the weather. We must respect the bee and its development over the course of the seasons, and the resources present in the region.
In 2020, I decided to turn to a sustainable production model in order to care for my health and that of my colleagues. By going organic, I am now able to avoid conventional chemical treatments requiring the use of overalls and masks. This commitment is the result of a long phase of reflection and preparation. Indeed, the transition to organic farming involves various changes. For example, in order to maintain my operations, I had to reduce the number of hives because organic beekeeping is time-consuming. So I went from 700 hives in conventional production to 500 organic hives.
In addition, the production of organic honey requires more organisation. In particular, I must always be aware of the infection rate of the Varroa parasite, which, if it exceeds a certain threshold, can destroy the hives and wipe out the crops. While conventional treatments make it relatively easy to get rid of them, organic techniques are much more limited.
Finally, I had to invest in honey stocks, which were collected during the good times without harming the colony. Although the bees are self-sufficient, you still have to be prepared for possible famines that would be fatal to them.
In terms of resource management, a pond was created to collect rainwater and promote biodiversity. The hives are fixed, and therefore they no longer practise transhumance, which means that the swarms no longer move from one hive to another to follow the flowers as they bloom.
When I was a conventional farmer, the bees foraged in rape fields that were not organic. Now that the apiary has been moved, the bees draw their nectar from a wide variety of flowers. The foraging areas are located far away from potential pollution zones and are surrounded by more than 50% organic fields or areas with a low environmental impact. These are constraints imposed by the specifications of organic farming. To rise to these challenges, I am supported by the Lille-based company PourDemain, which promotes our commitment as an organic beekeeper. This allows me and my two business partners, including Gilles, with whom I have worked for 13 years, to receive a remuneration that covers their expenses incurred as a result of organic farming. It's also an opportunity to explain to consumers what organic honey can be.
Your support is essential because conversion is a difficult 3-year period, during which it is necessary to learn new production methods and to face technical and economic challenges.
You can be a force for change and support me in this conversion by adopting a beehive!