Heinz closure affects local beekeeper in a big way: CBC

The closure of the Leamington Heinz plant won't just affect tomato farmers and employees there.

It will also put a dent in a beekeeper's bottom line.

Tom Congdon says a good chunk of his revenue comes from the company.

"Probably a third of our sales was to the H.J. Heinz Co. They were our biggest industrial account," said Congdon, who owns Sun Parlour Honey in Cottam. "I was devastated like everybody else."

H.J. Heinz Co. will close its Leamington, Ont., processing plant in June 2014, costing 740 people their jobs, the company announced last month.

More than local 40 farmers supplied the plant with tomatoes.

Congdon is the only local beekeeper affected. Heinz used his honey in barbeque sauces.

Congdon is now looking for new ways to market his product.

"We still have the same expenses," he said. "You have to keep those bees alive. You have to put the labour in to managing those colonies so we still have a big expense just to keep the operation going."

The Heinz closure is a second blow to Congdon's beekeeping business.

Not only was he the only beekeeper supplying honey to Heinz in Leamington, half his bees have already died.

He says pesticides bees pick up when they pollinate are to blame.

Congdon has now lost half of his 60 million bees, produces 80 per cent less honey and has one less customer.

"It is hard to stay positive," Congdon said. "We just have to take one day at a time and try and work through this problem and try to come up with a solution that works for all parties."

He said if there is no solution to the problems soon, he may be forced to find new work and close his 100-year-old family business.

"It's a hard thing to get your mind around after you've been in it all your life," he said. "It will definitely be a huge lifestyle change for our family if we have to get out of the bee business."