CLINTON, ONT. -- Three months ago Emma Lidkea knew nothing about bees or making honey. Today, she says she feels practically maternal about Huron Honey’s hives.

“It’s like the group of us are looking after half-a-million children,” says the second year Stratford Chefs School student from Clinton, Ont.

Lidkea leads a group of 19 Huron County high school and post-secondary students learning the sweet science of making honey. Since late spring, they’ve been looking after a hive of nearly 500,000 bees near Holmesville.

“For pretty much all of us, this is completely new,” says Lidkea, who harvested honey for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

The goal of the summer program, the brainchild of Central Huron’s Community Improvement Co-ordination, was to engage local youth in a productive entrepreneurial and agricultural activity, while so many were home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Huron County Warden Jim Ginn allowed the hives to be placed on his farm in between Clinton and Goderich.

“As a farmer I’m well aware of the problems pollinators were in, especially a few years ago. So anything we can do to help out pollinators is great for the environment, as well,” he says.

With the help of some local "bee-raising" mentors, the young team at Huron Honey just harvested their first batch of honey, which they plan to sell in the community.

Some of that honey will likely be used by Lidkea as she returns to the Stratford Chefs School this fall.

She says, “With a lot of dishes, the sweetener is the staple. So what makes the staple? Where does it come from? How did it get onto my counter?”

Not all 19 Huron Honey participants will be become beekeepers, but Lidkea is keen to keep her "children" close as she works towards becoming a chef.

“I’m always going to bring this information with me. It’s given me a different perspective at work and school. It’s made me think about, 'Where does this product come from?'” says a proud Lidkea, holding up the bees she helped raise this summer as part of Huron Honey.