Cattle farmer puts his honey where his mouth is

Dividing Creek Honey Farm

A South Gippsland farmer is turning his passion for bees – and their crucial role in food supply and the environment – into his core business.

It’s simple really – no bees, no food.Photograph of Matt Petersen

That’s how Fish Creek cattle farmer and passionate apiarist Matt Petersen sees it.

He has taken the beehives his father had kept on the farm since he was a child and is growing them into his main business – Dividing Creek Farm Honey. It’s helping the farm and the environment at the same time.

“Not everyone understands that honey is just the by-product of the work bees do,” Matt said.

“Bees are important to almost all we eat.

“For most of our food crops - without bees, we don’t have them.”

They also pollinate many of the crops that feed farm livestock and are vital to preserving the environment and ecosystems.

“I love it and I suppose that’s the biggest thing for me - the enjoyment I get out of the bees,” he said.

“But it’s a way of making a profit on the farm as well, while actually benefiting it and the environment more broadly.”

Matt has single-handedly grown what his father started years ago and turned a honey-making hobby into a wholesale business producing up to 17 tonnes of the sweet, sticky stuff a year.

With help of a $50,000 Regional Recovery Fund (RRF) grant from the Victorian Government and support from South Gippsland Shire Council, he is expanding the operation further. He wants to produce 25 tonnes of honey a year, hire up to four full time equivalent local staff and boost turnover by 300 per cent.Jars of honey on shelves

The infrastructure needed for the expansion is now complete, with honey production in full swing.

Matt says the government funding has been enormously helpful, bringing project completion forward by about a year.

Ultimately, he wants the honey and related products to become the farm’s main source of income with the cattle as a sideline.

The grant is also helping Matt make his own beeswax – and turn it into candles made and sold onsite. Up until now, it was sold wholesale and made into candles elsewhere.

Honeycomb – as produced by the bees alone – will be available too. Apparently, it tastes delicious with cheese.

Matt’s passion for bees and their importance to food production and the natural world will be evident at the farmgate outlet, which will also feature a room containing live bees and information about them. Visitors to the farm can take home some bee knowledge along with the honey and other products.

“We get hundreds of thousands of people driving past the farm on their way to Wilsons Prom every year, so selling to them via the farmgate shop is my main goal – and I want to sell to the local community directly as well,” Matt said.

“This isn’t just about sheer profit, it’s about the environment too.

“I have 170 acres of untouched native forest on my 400-acre farm and maintaining that balance is really important.”

Matt’s not only putting his honey where his mouth is – but his heart and soul too.

Once open, visitors can find Dividing Creek Farm Honey on Savages Road, Fish Creek.

For more information, visit the Regional Recovery Fund.