Melanie Coates

In June of 2008, Melanie Coates and Chef David Garcelon were two colleagues who shared an environmental hope and a dream for generating buzz from the rooftop of The Fairmont Royal York hotel, located in downtown Toronto.

After much study and research it became a reality when the former-Regional Director of Public Relations-turned-beekeeper and the former-Executive Chef-turned-urbanagriculturist joined forces with The Toronto Beekeepers Co-op and FoodShare. Together they were the first in the world to install an apiary on a city centre hotel roof. It was also Fairmont Hotel & Resort’s first hotel to embark on an apiary project. There are now a total of 20 Fairmont apiaries: seven rooftop apiaries and 13 neighbouring apiaries associated with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ properties around the world.

Melanie comments that she had forgotten her rural routes having been raised in the country. “As an advocate of urban agriculture, understanding nature in the urban setting became a life changing opportunity”. Melanie has a brother in British Columbia who keeps bees and she feels privileged for the focus of learning.” It allows me to escape, providing an oasis.” Supportive mentorship from Mylee Nordin and Kathy Kozma of Toronto Beekeepers Co-op and FoodShare has assisted Melanie to develop an intuitive trust when working with the bees. Melanie parallels the kindness of honeybees to being kind. “Honeybees show us the value of cooperation, working as a team, and that all roles have a purpose within the caste.” Being witness to this within apiary provides valuable lessons in her corporate position as Director of Marketing – Fogo Island Inn, a luxury resort development off Newfoundland.

Melanie feels invigorated by the bees. She enjoys the calm, detective-type work. Understanding the forensic thinking she equates to a chess game – “always having to think a few steps ahead”. Not trusting her intuition and ignoring mold she observed on a feed bucket led to weakness within the hive. “I have learned to rely on my intuition and not second guess myself”. Nailing hive equipment is the least favorite activity Melanie enjoys. “It is so integral to everything that occurs that I don’t really enjoy that part. It is best left to someone else to do.” With five years of honey harvests behind them and over 2,700 pounds of honey harvested for the hotel, the current six hives continue to thrive.

Melanie also operates a tiny urban bee shop at 2003 Dundas Street West in Toronto. BEEGrrl provides an offering of bottled honey, hive products, urban beekeeping advise and beekeeping equipment.

“I love the variety of my day. It grounds me to the ritual of my life. Tucking my eight year old son into bed at night is one of the favorite times of my day. Having gained appreciation of honeybees, observe them and share that knowledge enriches me”.

Melanie is a long-standing member of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-op, member of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, and continues as the head beekeeper at the Toronto luxury hotel, The Fairmont Royal York.