Remembering Arataki Honey’s Ian Berry – The Man Who ‘Started a Company and Built an Industry’

Business

Ian and Pat Berry were regular performers at their Country Music Club and their daughter Jenny said the couple would sing together and Ian would “dance the night away whenever he could!” Photo / Provided

A hard worker, innovator and family leader in one of New Zealand’s largest and oldest family beekeeping businesses died recently at the age of 90.

Ian Berry, of Arataki Honey, died peacefully at Hastings Memorial Hospital on March 18.

Ian was born in Eketahuna on October 7, 1931, the oldest child of Percy and Beatrice Berry.

In May 1944, the family finally moved to Arataki Road, where Percy first established Arataki Honey.

Ian left school at 15 to work full time with bees.

His brother Alan said the timing couldn’t have been worse to start a career as a beekeeper.

“A large percentage of hives were wiped out by nosema, there was a huge drought in Hawke’s Bay and most of the remaining hives were poisoned by lead spray applied to apple blossoms.”

Ian left school, started working as a beekeeper and designed the Arataki logo when he was fifteen.  Photo / Provided
Ian left school, started working as a beekeeper and designed the Arataki logo when he was fifteen. Photo / Provided

He said Ian’s hard work saved the family business.

“It was Ian who saved the business by working day and night to save the hives and their small honey crop.”

Ian married Pat Bixley in 1954 and was married for 68 years before his death.

The couple had six children, all of whom worked alongside their father at the honey house.

Ian’s daughter, Jenny Dobson, said the children all had wired frames, packed honey and worked with comb honey sections.

“It was hard to keep up with Dad, but it was our challenge. We often worked on contract rates, so we also learned to be capable and efficient!”

Ian pioneered the “palletized square” method of hive management which prevented inventory and earthquake damage and changed the way hives could be transported.  Photo / Provided
Ian pioneered the “palletized square” method of hive management which prevented inventory and earthquake damage and changed the way hives could be transported. Photo / Provided

His daughter Pam Flack said her father inspired loyalty.

“He was ahead of his time with a smoke-free workplace, equal opportunity and fair wages. He employed family, friends, neighbors and people from all over the world and he always paid the bills at time. His respect in the beekeeping industry was immense.”

Ian has served as president of the local beekeepers association, president of the national beekeepers association and a trustee of the Honey Industry Trust.

He helped establish the New Zealand Trees for Bees Research Trust and was the beekeepers’ representative on the Agricultural Chemicals Council.

His family say one of Ian’s proudest moments was when he was made a life member of the National Beekeepers Association.

Ian was taken to Arataki Honey for the final time in the back of an Arataki ute, buried in a simple pine coffin, his well-used bee smoker and hive tool on his back with him.  Photo / Provided
Ian was taken to Arataki Honey for the final time in the back of an Arataki ute, buried in a simple pine coffin, his well-used bee smoker and hive tool on his back with him. Photo / Provided

His brother Russell said no one has done more for the industry than Ian in the past 70 years.

His son David said at Ian’s funeral that his father had worked all his life.

“He built a business and grew an industry. He knew you push things through effort and collaboration. He leaves behind a community nurtured by his years.”

Ian also enjoyed surfcasting, badminton and table tennis and loved watching cricket, cultivating a large vegetable garden, playing the harmonica, singing and whistling.

He is survived by his brothers Alan and Russell, his sisters Colleen and Marian, his wife Pat, his six children Jenny, John, Peter, Pamela, Barbara and David, 19 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

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