Hantz Honey was founded by Les and Maisie Hantz. They married at Leeston in 1940. Times were tough for a farm hand earning minimal wages. With World War 2 under way the economy was about to get even tougher. Always with a few hobby hives to help supplement his meager wage the interest in honey production was about to become more serious. Les Hantz then began working and learning the craft from Tom Penrose. Rod Murray a fellow employee at the Penrose Operation was also a fast learner and hard worker. 1944 was the starter year with Tom and in 1951 Les Hantz decided seven years was a good enough apprenticeship and so L A Hantz started Lakeside Apiaries. The decade has often been called the fabulous fifties and 36 ton from 600 hives reinforced this. With help from Maisie, Geoff and Warren the two sons were always going to be Apiarists. 1963 saw Geoff leave school and join the business. 1965 Warren followed to complete the team. The next ten years saw Les oversee an operation that was about to expand like it had been hit with steroids. In 1974 Tom Penrose’s son David sold the operation to L A Hantz & Sons. Seven hundred hives and Bob, a loyal employee of the Penrose Operation joined team Hantz!
With Hantz Honey now operating in excess of 3000 hives the export market especially Europe was beckoning. The early eighties saw the Swiss market become an integral part of the operation. That initial sale was the start of an amazing shift in the direction of LA Hantz & Sons. With Geoff and Warren driving, other honey products were now in the expansion plan.
Sadly in 1995 Les Hantz passed away and a new direction was to start. In 1996 the partnership between Geoff and Warren Hantz was amicability split. With 1500 hives each to operate Geoff decided smarter not harder was the way. Hantz Honey was born. In 2008 Maisie Hantz passed away.
A third generation Hantz joined the business in 2001. After completing a mechanical apprenticeship Barry Hantz was just what Hantz Honey needed to remodel, rebuild and replace some equipment for an even more streamlined operation.
The hive numbers were built up to around 3000 and with average production around 35kg per hive more export markets were the direction. With Switzerland the original flagship market Hantz Honey now exports to Malaysia, USA and bulk honey to the European Union.
In a changing pollination market seed crops now lead the way. Blackcurrants, radish seed and carrot seed will in the future probably dominate the traditional white clover crop pollination.
Another diversity of the Hantz Honey operation is the breeding of Queen bees for sale to fellow operators. Approximately 2000 queens are bred each year from Hantz Honey.
Photos: A bumper crop at Barr Hill; Les Hantz and Rod Murray catching a swarm; Les and Rod having a cuppa; Taking off honey in the 1950s – hard work!