Jack Stone, urban beekeeper, Bee One Third

There are hundreds of fruit and vegetable varieties that depend solely on the tireless buzzing work of these young ladies ...

Did you know that bees are crucially important to the wellbeing of the Earth, not just for producing honey? If you didn’t, allow Jack Stone to educate you. As an urban beekeeper, Jack cultivates dozens of hives around Brisbane to create the extremely tasty Bee One Third Neighbourhood Honey. Through his work wrangling the winged insects full time, Jack has learned the true importance of bees to local ecosystems and their crucial role in pollinating a substantial portion of the world’s food supply. Not only does Bee One Third distribute some of the best gourmet honey in the country, it also aims to educate and inform consumers on the importance of bees to our food system, our impact on the environment and the necessity of supporting independent growers and producers. Bee One Third is teaming up with Privé249 to create a dish for Dine Out Brisbane, which links food establishments with ingredients from our food-bowl regions. We caught up with Jack to talk shop and what it takes to be an urban beekeeper.

First of all, tell us what sparked the idea for Bee One Third Neighbourhood Honey?
In 2012 I was reading a lot about the global disconnect between consumers and producers and the ever-growing lack of transparency in our food system – especially from the big two. It just so happened that I had just returned from two years travelling throughout Europe and the United States where I had been volunteering on a couple of organic farms. One third of our global food production is due to wild, native and European bees pollinating the flowers of which fruits, vegetables and nuts are produced.

How important are bees to our everyday lives?
How important is water to the human body? Well, some say we would die without it! Without bees we would struggle to produce the level of food we need to supply the growing global population. Without Mother Nature’s pollinators we would see the price of everyday fruits, vegetables and nuts skyrocket overnight. There are hundreds of varieties that depend solely on the tireless buzzing work of these young ladies, right along with the hard working farmers who equally depend on accurate and efficient transfer of pollen from flower to flower to achieve a saleable crop yield.

What is a typical day like for an urban beekeeper?
A little different from a rural beekeeper, that’s for sure! We have 17 locations and 80 hives spread across Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales, and with bees as our primary focus I dedicate three days a week (up at 5:00 am, home at 7:00 pm) in the warmer months to making sure the young ladies are healthy, strong and enjoying their stay up on the rooftops and in the backyards around Brisbane. You’ll find me checking in with chefs in between location checks, or building extra equipment to meet the ever-growing production rate of honey here in the city. Other days, you’ll find me extracting, settling and packing our beautiful honey into jars for retailers around Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

What’s the most creative way you’ve seen your honey used?
Having the pleasure of working with some of the best chefs in Brisbane, it’s always a delight to see how they are able to showcase such a versatile product like our neighbourhood honey. I’d have to say that when the ‘never ceases to amaze me’ Alanna Sapwell (formerly of Aquataine, Urbane and Gerard’s Bistro) created an aerated fermented James Street rooftop honey, citrus sorbet, pulled almond biscuit dessert it was genius.

From July 18 to August 4, Dine Out Brisbane will see 32 restaurants showcase local Southeast Queensland produce in a signature dish. How is Bee One Third Neighbourhood Honey getting involved?
I’m so excited to be working with the extremely passionate and talented chef de cuisine James Gallagher of Privé249 at the Sofitel Brisbane Central. James has created a honey-inspired dish using our Roma Street Parkland neighbourhood honey, breaking boundaries with a honey parfait, poached pear and mojito dessert. Whilst filming for the Dine Out Brisbane video I was invited to trial it and it was nothing short of perfectly balanced, refreshing and mouth-watering.

How important do you think it is to educate diners on where their produce is coming from?
Absolutely vital! Not only is it a great thing to be able to provide recognition to the hardest working people on this planet – those amazing farmers – but with the knowledge of where their food is coming from the consumer is able to make more conscious decisions on daily basis to support Australian, locally grown food over imported or offshore-owned companies. We have the best soil in the world, the best farmers known to agriculture and the best food-market scene, which all results in an open and transparent opportunity for people to buy with their ethics and heart.

What other local producers have piqued your interest of late?
I’m super impressed by Alessandro Motta of Casa Motta Cheese. He is producing the most delicious fresh burrata and mozzarella, freshly pulled and stretched. There is nothing quite like fresh burrata, heirloom tomatoes, basil and balsamic.

What occupation would you love to do, if you weren’t an urban beekeeper?
I’d be a cabinetmaker or a carpenter. They are valuable trades for life and a great way to keep the mind, hands and body active.

If you’d like to try some Bee One Third Neighbourhood Honey incorporated into a decadent dessert, head to Privé249 and try the honey parfait for Dine Out Brisbane from from Monday July 18 to Thursday August 4.

Hungry for more? Take yourself back to when The Street Photographer captured Jack’s James Street rooftop honey harvest

Image credit: Kate Stark


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