December 12, 2022
Alfred Cane was born in Ballarat in 1909, the eldest of five children who were orphaned when Alf was 7 years of age. At the age of 10, Alf was sent to a farm near Euroa in Northeast Victoria where he was very poorly treated, going without food, clothes and shoes and attending school only when he had finished his work hand milking cows and cutting scrub.
In 1925 Alf got away from the farm and worked in a local garage until the big depression swept our country.
In 1929 Alf married Catherine Welsh and together they went in search of his younger brothers, and eventually found Bill near Sale in Gippsland on a farm living under much the same conditions that Alf had experienced.
Alf and Bill worked with a beekeeper, Clarence Gell, and then as they both had a keen interest in bees, started cutting wild hives out of trees like many other budding beekeepers, in one year, they cut 80 hives out of trees in the Glenmaggie area. To this day the Cane and Gell families are still great friends with the next generations Alan and Ken.
In 1930 Alf and Catherine settled in the Sale area and raised three children, Audrey, Margaret, and Keith. By the mid 1930’s they had a large enough beekeeping operation of their own to be self-sufficient. Alf’s first major shift was to Beaufort near Ballarat only to have their home and hives destroyed by a bush fire. Alf re-established another beekeeping operation based at Maffra and he used a central extracting plant which was one of the earliest of its kind.
In 1939 the Black Friday fires roared through Victoria causing tremendous damage and once again many hives were burnt including Alf’s hives. Again, Alf set about trying to rebuild new apiaries and trapped rabbits and stripped wattle bark for extra income until he was established again.
In 1948 Alf and his family moved back to Euroa and his son Keith joined his father’s business as he would rather be with the bees than at school. Alf and Keith built an extracting plant on a dog trailer which they could use either as a mobile or central extracting plant. The equipment included two extractors, and a oil-fired boiler with a mechanical water pump. One of the many innovative features of the extracting plant was that it was possible to lower the roof when travelling from site to site, very similar to the pop-top caravans of today, when the roof was extended it had 24 inches of screens all around for ventilation in summer.
In 1949 Alf and Keith grew Canes Honey to where they had to buy honey from other beekeepers, their main markets were Permewan Wright (now known as Payless) and the Australian Army who also bought a lot of honey during that period.
In 1956 Keith married Thelma Martin and their family grew to three boys and a daughter, Max, Ian, Don, and Heather. Thelma and the children also travelled with Keith and Alf, living out of caravans, Thelma was the mainstay of their operation, looking after the children, cooking, washing etc in the bush and home-schooling the children through a correspondence school in Melbourne. It was at this time that the future third generation beekeepers Max, and Ian began their interest in bees while accompanying Alf and Keith every chance they could.
During this time, they were migratory with their hives, often travelling large distances across Victoria, South Australia and NSW. In the winter of 1957 while working Banksia in the Big Desert, Alf, who always took his false teeth out to sleep woke to find them frozen solid in the glass of water as the nights were so cold and the frosts so heavy. In those days before anti-freeze was available, every winter’s night the radiators of all the vehicles had to be drained and taps had to be covered to stop the frost bursting them.
This migratory travelling also led to the making of many family friends whose knowledge and properties have been handed down through the generations and now are handed down to the new owners of Canes Honey, Tambo Valley Honey.
After Keith’s father Alf passed away in an accident, the bees were sold, and Keith worked outside of the beekeeping industry for a short period before being appointed an Apiary Inspector for Western Victoria.
After returning to Bruthen in 1985 he continued to work bees with Thelma travelling all over Victoria until 2020.
Ian’s fascination with the forest and the environment started from a young age as he spent his youth beekeeping with his brother Max, father Keith and grandfather Alf. This started a lifelong passion advocating for the management of Public Assets so that all values and uses are recognised in perpetuity, ensuring that the forests can be enjoyed for generations to come, and our forests are something that our grandchildren can be proud of. Over the years he also has built a great understanding and knowledge of forests and ecosystems over Victoria, as a result of this knowledge Ian has made a significant contribution to the beekeeping industry and continues to do so today.
Ian had hives from an early age and when he left school, he completed his apprenticeship as a Carpenter and Joiner in Ararat and by the time he was 20 had approximately 150 hives.
In 1980 Ian married Robyn Krautz and shifted to Bruthen where they had two children, Ben, and Jessica. As commercial beekeepers, Ian, and Robyn managed 1000 to 1200 hives most of their business lives and during this time they worked bees across Victoria and NSW making lifelong friends and accumulating bee sites from all areas that they worked.
Ian’s brother Max also had hives from an early age and become a full-time commercial beekeeper in 1997, and Ian and Max worked closely together in the Mallee region and Western Victoria for many years sharing bee sites and information until Ian retired, Ben utilises many of these bee sites and information today. Max and Ian have spent countless hours developing innovative options to continuously improve their businesses.
Ian’s first truck was an old International, everything was manually loaded, it was hard work with poor honey prices and high interest rates, and then when honey prices improved, he replaced it with an Isuzu truck and built a crane loader which was better than loading bees manually. Ian later went on to build a 4-wheel drive forklift with an extendable arm which allowed their beehives to become palletized.
Bees with good genetic traits are important, and Ian has developed a program over many years to ensure the bees were efficient as possible, a role he still does for Ben today.
Ian also had started a succession plan from his early days to make sure this intergenerational knowledge was not lost, employing many young adults from around East Gippsland.
Ben and Stacey Murphy were a part of that succession plan and are today the proud owners of the Canes Honey business that they have developed into Tambo Valley Honey.
‘We wish to acknowledge the Gunaikurnai people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.’