Maria and Celso Baldo are a prime example of migrants making good in New Zealand.
They’re the founders of Waipā’s Marcel and Sons Honey. Selling multiflora honey is their thing, but they also rear and sell queen bee cell or mated queen bees and offer a pollination service. More recently they have started selling beeswax wraps and candles.
Their French Pass Road operation east of Cambridge has been a decade in the making. When the family arrive in New Zealand from the Philippines in 2008, it was in search of a life that would enable them to use their environmental training while raising their family.
Celso is a forester by profession, Maria a Bachelor of Environmental Planning graduate. It was through Maria’s urban-based job providing environmental education that she met Celso, who was then working for the Philippines’ Department of
Agriculture in the north of the country. The difficulty in conducting a long-distance relationship prompted Celso to pursue other opportunities, particularly after they married in 1999.
His interest in bees had been sparked after being exposed to a beekeeping project funded by the European community. He trained from 1999 to 2003, then moved to Australia for a while to work on a queen breeding farm in Queensland. Maria joined him for his second season, but the couple decided Australia wasn’t for them and went home for a while before an opportunity arose in New Zealand.
“I came to Galatea in 2007,” Celso said. “It was more welcoming here… I quickly felt at home. After one season I asked Maria to start processing papers for her and our first-born, Paulo.”
They stayed in Galatea for four years, and welcomed their second son, Barry, in Rotorua in 2010.
The couple set about enhancing their skills in readiness for the home-based business they wanted to start. Both did apiculture qualifications through Telford Rural Polytechnic, Celso completing a Certificate in Apiculture Knowledge and Maria completing a Certificate in Queen Bee Rearing Knowledge.
“We got our residency in 2010, and thought it was time to give our own operation a good go,” said Celso. “This was where we wanted to stay.”
They started from a single swarm Celso had been given from his employer. “I then collected three more, then seven. Now we have about 300 hives.”
Some of their hives are on the property they rent on Cambridge’s fringe, while most are spread around the region. Honey may be at the heart of it, but their associated skills are often in demand well beyond Cambridge.
Both run other jobs as they bed in their home-based business, working at Cambridge Resthaven. It was there that they launched a ‘world of bees’ education programme earlier this year, delighting residents with a first-hand look inside an observation hive and hearing about the inner workings of beekeeping.
Educating people about bees is something they want to do more of; they are keen to promote awareness of the importance of bees by giving talks to schools and other groups.
“Our passion is the e
nvironment, this is our way of giving something back to the community,” said Maria.
The Baldos named their business Marcel and Sons Honey because both their sons, 18-year-old Paulo and Barry, 11, are hands-on and have real skin in the game.