Beekeeping is in the blood for Hawke's Bay's John Berry. So he was surprised to learn that his commitment and contribution to the industry has won him an award.
Berry is a third-generation beekeeper who started helping at age 5, had his first hive at age 8t and went into the industry full-time at 15 after working part-time for many years.
His grandfather Percy Berry started Arataki Honey in 1944, which his father and then himself became part of.
Despite it being part of his life from a young age, Berry wasn't pushed into the industry, but carried it on as he has always enjoyed beekeeping.
It is the only thing he has ever done for a living, with voluntary conservation work on the side.
He now runs his own business, Berry Beekeeping, but still works very closely with Arataki.
At the height of production, Berry and his brother were operating 2000 hives.
He has now cut the business back to 380 hives in Kereru, Tikokino, Maraekakaho and a few around Ocean Beach but is "still really enjoying" beekeeping.
At the Apiculture New Zealand Honey Competition Berry took gold in the Class A: Liquid or Clear Honey – Light and Class G: Honey Comb – Frame, Wood categories, silver in Class B: Naturally Granulated Honey – Light and the 'Unsung Hero Award' for his "outstanding contribution" to the industry.
Over the years he has done a lot of work with American Foulbrood (a disease that can affect beehives) inspections, became an official inspector, taught courses on how people can recognise American Foulbrood, has given a lot of advice on the NZ beekeeping forum and was for a time the president of the Hawke's Bay hub of Apiculture NZ.
"I think I've just been recognised just for the general work I do ... nothing really special just long years of helping out," Berry told Hawke's Bay Today.
He loves the industry but acknowledges it's also facing its own struggles.
Prices have dropped, there are "ridiculous" strict rules around people posting honey overseas and there were "huge hive losses" in parts of the country last autumn likely largely due to Varroa mites becoming resistant to some of the treatments used, he said.
Varroa mites spread different viruses among the bees and are "by the far the biggest change to beekeeping since I've been beekeeping".
This year he will be doing some of his own trials with different products to tackle Varroa.
During winter Berry's time is spent doing maintenance work, making new frames and boxes, repairing and tidying before the spring season.
In spring the first thing he does is check the honey stores, replaces any boxes needed with ones he has repaired over winter and puts in Varroa treatments.
He currently specialises in comb honey which he sells weekly at the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market.