“To be honest, I headed back to Victoria and finished my Certificate 111 in Beekeeping which was great and sad at the same time,” admitted Claire.
“I enjoyed my time at Ag School learning and making friends with other beekeepers so much I didn’t want to graduate and I held off handing in my assignments because I was living the dream.”
Claire’s dream and passion is driven by the challenges facing bee populations across the world and she’s on a mission to inspire Australian bee keepers to increase their hive numbers and expand their commercial bee keeping operations while also exporting Australia’s healthy and clean bees to the world.
It’s been a lifelong passion. Claire grew up in a very small town near the Great Ocean Road called Bellbrae and attended Geelong College later moving to Melbourne where she completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in political science. When she graduated, she started working in finance and spent more than a decade working in the city in stock broking.
Claire and Paul began investigating different regenerative farming practices once the firm Claire was working for closed its doors in Australia and that’s when she moved into bees full time. But it’s not been all smooth sailing. Claire’s Mother died of cancer in mid-2016 and in September 2016 Paul developed epilepsy and had a tough time finding the right medication and spent the next eighteen months controlling his seizures.
It was during this time, Claire lived a double life, working in an office during the day while at night attending beekeeping clubs to learn more from commercial beekeepers. She would see her work mate’s eyes glaze over when she spoke about bees and the mailroom politely asked if she could have her queen bees posted “elsewhere” when her hives needed re-queening.
Always fascinated by queen breeding, Claire decided early on she would prefer to be a queen breeder than a beekeeper for honey.
Claire met her partner Paul while volunteering making sandwiches for homeless people in inner city Melbourne. Paul is a horticulturalist and is always in the backyard. Claire purchased her first hive (which she still has) in 2007. Naively, she brought the hive home in the back of a two door hatchback with bees escaping while driving down the Eastern Highway!
Claire and Paul have always been passionate about sustainability and they converted their backyard into a massive veggie patch with fruit trees, bees and chickens. Their backyard has been featured in newspapers and on television many times as a model of suburban sustainability.
When their first child Hugh was born in 2011 the couple purchased ten acres in Kyneton. Claire wanted to be a full time keeper and Paul was tired of inner city traffic going from garden to garden. In 2013-14 they designed and built a sustainable house that was a finalist in the UN World Environment Day Green Build Awards on their ten acres and moved to Kyneton permanently. They’ve also had two more children, Freya in 2014 and Wren in 2016.
The couple started a pastured egg business and now run 1200 hens (they were lucky enough to be the first farm in Victoria to obtain a low density pastures poultry permit) and they attend farmers markets nearly every weekend.
The business is going fabulously, but the passing of Claire’s Mother at 68 has reinforced the old adage of how short life really is. Chatting in the palliative care ward, Claire’s Mother told her, “I don’t have time for cancer, I still have so much to do”. That’s when Claire decided she had to get going on her beekeeping and queen breeding dreams and to apply for the AgriFutures™ Rural Woman’s Award.
I am very thankful I applied for the AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award which has enriched my life in so many ways. I am now working on increasing my hive numbers, rearing queens and running my first event in The Good Life Farm Co Hive Share program,” said Claire.
“I was nervous about teaching but I’ve ended up really enjoying it and I’m enjoying it so much I have started a qualification in Training and Assessment.”
Adding: “At times I’ve found the process frustrating as I’m my harshest critic and a perfectionist to boot so I have had to stop being so hard on myself.”
“I have achieved a lot in less than 8 months and now I would like to take stock of what I’ve learnt, increase my hives and work for a larger Commercial Beekeeper for practical experience before applying for the Artificial Insemination Program.”
Claire has also applied for funding for a Beekeeping and farming program on her farm which will increase jobs in her home town including NDIS jobs which if she can get it across the line will be a huge win for the local economy.
The AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s leading award to recognise, celebrate and acknowledge exceptional rural women. Over the past two decades, the Rural Women’s Award has provided 293 women from a range of industries with the opportunity to achieve positive change for rural and regional Australia through diverse and innovative projects relating to primary industries.
The Award provides a platform to inspire and support Australian women to use their talents and abilities to benefit their industries and communities, and award recipients become part of a strong Alumni, that together, shape the perception of women in regional and rural Australia, and provides a significant network to support their future endeavours.
To arrange interviews contact AgriFutures Australia Corporate Communications Manager Jo Mazzocchi on 0418 469 605 or email firstname.lastname@example.org