Beekeeping is a passion for Wellesley Fair Associate Ambassador

For Mason McCormick, the opportunity to be the Associate Ambassador for the Wellesley Fall Fair was a chance to step out of his comfort zone.

“I love talking to people, but I didn’t really speak in the public eye or in large crowds. So I just thought I’m going to give this opportunity and step out of my comfort zone and try something new,” McCormick said.

A show ambassador is chosen following a competition that sees candidates prepare an ‘about me’ presentation and deliver a speech on a topic related to the theme. The theme for 2021 was Community Unity.

“I chose agriculture simply because I live on a farm and my family has a fresh produce store. My whole life, everything I do is on a farm so I had a great time doing it,” McCormick said.

Ultimately, the ambassadorship went to the only other contestant, Avery Flynn. McCormick was named an associate ambassador to represent the fair. Despite event cancellations and changes due to the pandemic, McCormick was still able to represent people in the community.

“We went around town to a few small shops and businesses to try and get people to support the locals. I really stand behind that, supporting small local farms, small businesses that are just trying to be one big community and supporting each other,” he explained.

McCormick also realized the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to put on the fair.

“It takes a lot of people for the community to help organize a fair. Most people just go to the fair and enjoy the day and that’s about it, but it’s a lot of work. You have the people who help with the ambassador program. And the judges for vegetables and all the different categories. I hadn’t realized how much the community had to help and mobilize to organize a fair and put things in place for the community,” he said.

In addition to being an associate ambassador, McCormick is also a beekeeper on the family farm, an activity he started about five years ago with a grant from the provincial government.

“I chose beekeeping because they are endangered, there are few of them and they needed help. I thought “this will be a cool hobby to pick up and start”.

After starting with two hives the first year, McCormick now has five. Bees have had an impact on the family farm, he said.

“It’s an excellent source of pollination for our farm. We grow sweet corn, pumpkins and squash and I’ve noticed we’re vastly more productive just from the many beehives I have on our farm,” McCormick said.

It was a learning experience, he notes.

“Learning to select hives or, imagining that you have to find the queen and make sure that she lays eggs, that there are larvae and brood in the hive. I like doing it because it helps the environment. It’s a cool thing to do and have.

Despite the risk of working with bees – McCormick has already been stung 27 times in a single day – he has no fear in the job.

“I’ll be wearing white gloves and a bee cap, but I’m not really wearing the full suit. I have it right above my head most of the time, but I’m so used to it that a bee sting is like a mosquito bite now. I just kind of brushed it off,” McCormick added.

It’s cool to see how hives work, he enthuses.

“It’s kind of crazy how an insect can be so smart to collect honey and make it and then store it over winter so it can survive,” he added.

While McCormick would like to make beekeeping his career, there are challenges ahead. According to the Ontario Beekeepers Association, commercial beekeepers lost an average of 43.2% of their bees last winter, while small-scale beekeepers lost an average of 53.2%.

“I’m going to keep doing it forever, that’s for sure. It’s just difficult because of the harsh winters we have. I would love for it to take off, but it’s just an expensive hobby. That’s one thing about it, all the hives and the tools and everything and just the bees – if your bees die you have to buy new ones – it’s just an expensive thing but I wish it would take off and do it full time if I could.