Mikey Cernotta, along with his Canadian born wife, Allexa and their three young daughters Hazel, Zele and Dakoning, produce an incredible array of monofloral honeys and honey products, amongst the towering karri forests of Channybearup, in south Pemberton.
The beekeepers yield 25 tonne of pure and unprocessed honey every year and a couple hundred kilos of bee pollen. Their bees forage for specific flowering nectar across Western Australia with all the honey brought back to their Whispering Woods home base for storing, jarring, and labelling.
In recent years the couple have diversified their operations to produce honey soaps, honey body scrubs, beeswax candles, beeswax lotion bars and soon to be released an exciting new alcoholic drink called Ambrosia. They both enjoy the challenge of thinking outside of the box a little, and subscribe to the adage ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.
Mikey and Allexa are passionate about showcasing the incredible monofloral honeys that they can produce here in Western Australia. Found nowhere else in the world, their honeys are endemic to just this corner of the globe. In particular, Western Australia’s Jarrah, Karri and Marri honeys are regarded as some of the world’s best honeys, both in flavour and their health benefits.
The flavour complexity, sweetness and texture varies between varieties of monofloral honeys, making them much like good wine. They provide the best experience when paired with the appropriate foods. When using honey, it’s important to remember not to expose it to too much heat. Anything over 60 degrees will take out all the beneficial enzymes, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
When asked which is their favourite honey, the pair couldn’t decide between Karri and Jarrah honey. “Both are incredible in flavour - the Karri with its smooth butterscotch flavour and Jarrah with its rich flavour, luxurious texture and dark caramel finish,” commented Allexa.
Pemberton Honey’s bees are moved through the night and placed on carefully selected sites in state forest or on private property, where the tree or bush they want to produce honey from is the primary species in flower. Tree age and critical mass of these target crops in these areas is super important, so naturally lots of groundwork is done beforehand to understand and prove sites.
The bees then forage on the species in flower, fill the hives with nectar and ripen the nectar into honey. Once the hives are full and the honey is capped, Mikey removes the honey supers and brings them back to their extracting shed in Pemberton.
The honey frames are uncapped and then placed into a honey extractor. Using centrifugal force, the honey is spun out and moved into settling tanks where any wax debris settles to the top. Clean, fresh and unprocessed honey is then decanted and stored ready to be jarred. Their filtering of honey is as simple as straining the honey to remove only the wax. This ensures they retain all the benefits that honey provides.
The Cernottas were drawn to this area for the forests, amazing communities, and the opportunities that they saw to create a life here. The local communities have enabled them to realise lifelong dreams that have given them a true sense of connection to the lands they live on. Mikey says, “working bees in these amazing forest types is a very grounding experience which makes producing these particular honeys so enjoyable”.
The beekeeping industry provides over $1bn worth of production to farmers every year in WA through pollination of food crops (source). While honey is the product we love from bees, the biggest benefit we get from them as humans is from the pollination services they provide while foraging for honey. One out of every three mouthfuls of food you eat can be attributed in some way to bee pollination (source). From avocados, strawberries, almonds, canola and blueberries, right through to the pastures that feed cattle and other livestock. Without bees and other insects performing these highly specialised pollination services, yields and subsequent supply of many of our favourite foods would see a decline.
Mikey and Allexa are passionate about working towards full and secure protection of the remaining native forests and natural ecosystems. "Without these, all forms of agriculture are impacted through a wide range of direct and indirect ways. As beekeepers who live and work in the bush to produce honey and then provide pollination services to a range of horticultural and agricultural businesses, we see that link every single day. The relationship between the natural environment, farming and food security is deeply entwined," commented Mikey.
Consumers are increasingly seeking an understanding of precisely where their food comes from and the Cernottas firmly believe nothing tells provenance like honey. These honeys showcase the raw flavour of endemic vegetation ecosystems that have existed on this continent in isolation for around 16 million years. Very few other foods can tell that story.
Pemberton Honey can be found in niche cafes, wineries and artisan stores across Western Australia as well as a range of IGAs and larger local grocers. Visit www.pembertonhoney.com for a full range of stockist. You can also to drop by their packing shed on farm for your opportunity to taste the range, purchase direct from the producer and chat firsthand with Mikey and Allexa about all things honey and Southern Forests. Make a day trip of it and drop by neighbouring Southern Forests Chocolate Co, Beedelup Falls and RAC Karri Valley Resort.
Photography by Craig Kinder Photography for Genuinely Southern Forests.