The trio behind Corbicula Pollen in Langley are Bee pollen expert Casey Aelbers (L), Jason Essaunce and Carolyn Essaunce (R) who founded the first bee pollen business in B.C. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

The trio behind Corbicula Pollen in Langley are Bee pollen expert Casey Aelbers (L), Jason Essaunce and Carolyn Essaunce (R) who founded the first bee pollen business in B.C. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Langley bee pollen business weathers pandemic

With some well-timed help

Corbicula Pollen, a Langley farm that collects, harvests, and produces bee pollen, is the first of it’s kind in B.C. and only the third in Canada, according to co-owner Carolyn Essaunce.

Based in Murrayville, Corbicula takes its name from the part of a bee’s hind leg used for carrying pollen, a product that is used as a healthy of source protein and vitamins, and as a treatment for seasonal allergies.

Essaunce describes harvesting pollen as “tricky, unique process,” involving hundreds of bee colonies at the farm and elsewhere in the area, one that collects about 2,500 lbs. a year.

“We sell out every year,” she said.

“Pollen is a really under served market.”

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Then, COVID-19 hit.

“At first everything halted,” she recalled, but business has rebounded, in no small part due to a program that helps businesses get through the pandemic.

Co-owner Jason Essaunce explained that for years, Corbicula Pollen had relied primarily on farmers markets and community events to sell their products.

“When the pandemic hit, these events were either cancelled or had increased restrictions limiting our access to consumers.”

Along came the Food Business Refresh Program, a $650,000 cost-shared program launched in October of 2020 by the province, in partnership with the Small-Scale Food Processing Association and Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Refresh helps participants access business coaching and food industry expertise to help small businesses adapt to the changing conditions of the pandemic.

“The program helped us pivot to in-house production by helping us purchase our own equipment and by introducing us to other processors and food industry support programs,” Jason said.

“By processing and packaging our bee pollen ourselves, we’ll save money and have better control over the quality of our product.”

Refresh also helped create an online store at corbicula.ca to reach consumers.

READ ALSO: Latest government funding to benefit bee health in B.C.

More than 70 small businesses have benefited so far.

Lana Popham, provincial agriculture, food and fisheries minister said that throughout the pandemic, farmers, fishers, and food and beverage processors have shown “incredible resilience.”

Langley EAST MLA Megan Dykeman, a long-time farmer, said she appreciates the need, “especially in the midst of this pandemic, to provide support for farmers.”

Langley MLA Andrew Mercier, noted “it’s been a tough year” for local businesses like Corbicula, who can use the program to help “navigate the disruptions of COVID-19.”


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