This sugar sweet story started with a few guys sharing a passion for surfing. Today, Ville Rinta, Juho Wiberg, Eero Lähdesmäki and Jussi Peltoniemi are passionate beekeepers, turning beeswax into environmental-friendly surf wax. Through their raw artisan honey company Sugar Daddies Co, based in the small village of Isokyrö in Ostrobothnia, they also add sweetness to our lives with their honey. While doing so, they are supporting natural ecosystems now threatened by climate change – ecosystems that are essential for our own well-being, since 70 out of the top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees (Greenpeace, 2019).
“It all started a few years back when we were wondering what could be used as ecological surf wax. Most of the surf waxes are made from petroleum-based products, such as petroleum jelly, and while surfing, it ends up in the oceans. Mr. Google told us that beeswax could do the trick. We added spruce resin and cold-pressed hemp oil into the mix to make it work in the Nordics, and so Arctic Surf Wax was created!
Now the surf wax business isn’t exactly massive in Finland (although we sell quite a lot to Norway), and to get beeswax you need to have bees. Once we started to produce the surf wax, we realized that bees are more interested in making honey than in surfing. Hence, we ended up sweetening people’s lives with honey with a twist! So far the ride has been hectic and the learning curve radical.
80% of all pollination worldwide is performed by honey bees (Greenpeace, 2019). Not only do they make nature bloom, but they ensure healthier and better berries, fruits and crops overall – basically, we can’t live without them.
The number of bees has dropped dramatically since the 60’s. There are several reasons for this – habitat destruction, climate change, the increase of pollution and the use of pesticides, to name a few. Today, we’re experiencing a mass extinction of bees and pollinators. Beekeeping increases the number of pollinators a lot and in many areas it’s the only way of providing sufficient pollination.
As climate change has a significant effect on plants it also affects the bees. On top of this, unpredictable weather conditions caused by climate change are giving them a hard time. Bees survive cold climates with ease and in Scandinavia harsh winters clean the soil, and honey bees’ parasites – such as varroa mites – have a hard time surviving it. Snow works as a layer of insulation and protects the hives from the wind. Constant rain or moist weather conditions on the other hand make it hard for the bees to keep the hive’s moisture level in control and creates perfect conditions for harmful bacteria.
When it comes to the benefits of beekeeping for the bees themselves, it depends on how you treat and take care of them. You can taste the mood of the bees from the honey – stressed bees make stressed honey. Our bees live in the wild in well insulated wooden homes. All of the homes are built by us Daddies and we are more than proud to say that the majority of the materials and insulations are scavenged and upcycled. We don’t use smokers to calm the bees and make sure that the apiary has enough blooming flowers around it. Plus, we only visit the hives once in 10 to 14 days so as not to disturb the girls.
Two out of our four Daddies are full-time farmers, so naturally we are, and were already prior to founding Sugar Daddies Co, thinking and evaluating sustainable choices in our everyday lives a lot. But after starting beekeeping our eyes were really opened. You see a miniature ecosystem in front of you: bees are making decisions together and each one of them has their own task to do, that enables the ecosystem to grow and be healthy. At the same time surrounding apple trees become healthier when they get cross pollinated.
Starting the company has definitely had big effects also on our everyday lives. For example, you don’t want to spray the dandelions in your garden with pesticides as they are really important for the bees. And once you’ve tasted dandelion honey straight from the hive you convince your neighbors not to spray their garden’s dandelions either.
We also started a ”Buzz Trailer”, which is a tractor trailer that has 20ish beehives on top of it. We use it to educate farmers in our surroundings about beekeeping and the everyday things they can do to help out the pollinators. We are some of the youngest farmers around here and have noticed that there is little or no information around, so we started offering that ourselves to educate others. In addition, we give flower seeds to anyone who needs or wants them.
When we started the company we had an idea of founding the Sugar Daddies Foundation. With that we could actually give not just something, but a lot back. Then we came up with a mission: to take care of the little ones. However, soon we noticed that it is too late for that – instead of taking care of them, we need to save them.
Now we are changing the foundation into an organisation, which allows us to contribute 5% of the company profit to it, as well as 50€ from each Summer Buzz sold (the Summer Buzz gives you an opportunity to sponsor a beehive and gives you 10 kg of honey over the course of a season). It also allows people and companies to support the organisation either with funding or material.
One of the ideas behind the organisation is to support universities that are doing research on pollinators. There are for example a few interesting studies in Finland going on about how to stop one deadly diseases affecting pollinators. But there’s also another aspect we are really focused on: the little ones in a bigger meaning. As we are all fathers (that’s where the name of the company comes from, by the way), ”Daddies” are taking action to save not only the bees, but children as well, by making donations to Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, for example. This year we are focusing on building the organisation on not just a charity level, but on a level that can actually make big things happen to save the little ones – pollinators and children alike.”
Photos: Sugar Daddies Co
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