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Published June 04, 2009, 06:20 PM

N.D. honey company set for season

North Dakota’s honey-producing season is getting under way, and one company is getting help from South Africa.

By: Associated Press,

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — North Dakota’s honey-producing season is getting under way, and one company is getting help from South Africa.

The Browning Honey Co. produces about 900 tons of honey each year. Co-owner Zac Browning said that for the past five years, the company has taken advantage of a U.S. Labor Department program that helps companies find seasonal migratory work.

He plans on a staff of 30 this season, with more than a third of the workers from South Africa.

Cilliers De Beer from Polokwane, South Africa, has been working with Browning Honey for five years. He knew nothing about beekeeping before the first season.

“You get used to it, you fall in love with it and keep doing it,” he said.

Employees like De Beer say they look forward to working in a modern facility and taking some of that experience back to South Africa.

“To be given this opportunity is tremendous,” De Beer said.

Seasonal migratory workers who come to Jamestown also labor for part of the year in Idaho and California. Adriaan Venter, a beekeeper from Freetown Wepener, South Africa, who has worked for Browning Honey for four years, said he enjoys the small-town country feel of Jamestown more than the atmosphere of other locations.

“It’s comfortable staying out here,” he said.

Browning Honey has about 600 million bees in about 12,000 hives throughout North Dakota, the nation’s top honey-producing state. Beekeepers visit those hives every two weeks, feeding and inspecting the bees. The season runs from mid-June to early September.

“The real magic of the operation happens out there with Mother Nature — we’re just the mechanics,” said Mark Peterson, Browning Honey’s plant manager.

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