A PASSION to showcase the premium status of honey has led to an Adelaide Hills-based apiarist being picked as the winner of the inaugural national Australian Beekeeper Award.
Jake Leske's win was announced to a crowd of 600 delegates at the fourth Australian Honey Bee Congress Dinner in Sydney earlier in June.
Competing for the title against state finalists from across Australia, Mr Leske said it was an honour to win the newly-established award that recognises emerging leaders in the nation's critical beekeeping industry.
"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," he said.
Mr Leske's enthusiasm for the industry started after high school, when he worked for a commercial beekeeper for 18 months in the South East and set out to learn as much as he could about beekeeping.
After spending six years as an aircraft technician in the Royal Australian Navy, his love of bees drew him back to the Adelaide Hills, where he has spent the past three years building his business.
An outdoor enthusiast, he spends his days out in the bush with his bees, pulling honeycomb from his 100 hives scattered across 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.
He is now focused on showcasing Australian honey as a premium product and suggests too many Australians aren't aware of the diverse range of honey flavours and products available.
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.- JAKE LESKE
"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.
Mr Leske 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," he said.
"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.
"It's a win-win for everyone. It provides protection for the farmers' livestock and ensures access to bee sites for years to come."
His 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 Mr Leske 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," he 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."
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