McCaig Honey

Miel McCaig Honey: a family’s passion for bees

It was almost by chance that Miel McCaig Honey came into being. Penny and Jim McCaig used to buy their honey from a beekeeper down the road from their home in Saint-Lazare. They were curious about how it was made. Life conspired with their curiosity and brought whispers of a beekeeping course being offered at McGill’s MacDonald Campus. Jim signed up. They purchased three colonies, and two years later Penny took the course herself. Now, the two of them with some experience under their belts, wanted to expand their hobby. Ron Wright, a respected beekeeper of the region, was ready to retire, and was willing to sell them his 20 hives, on the condition he could still be involved. A perfect situation for the McCaigs, who were more than willing to be taken under his wing.

Miel McCaig Honey

Bees storing up for winter

They continued caring for and learning all about the bees: queens and drones, how to tell a weak hive from a healthy one, to know when the flowers would bloom, where there was shelter and water for the hives. Their awareness of nature grew with their knowledge of bees. So did their honey production. Up to this point they were making it only for friends and family.

About 15 years in, Jim took his retirement and they decided to expand some more, purchasing another 40 hives when another beekeeper in the vicinity was winding down his business. Miel McCaig Honey started selling to stores and direct to the customer at Finnegan’s market.  Their daughter, Catherine, started making beeswax candles and hand cream while she went to university.

It was only after the 4thtime of meeting Penny, did she even mention the awards they have won, and only because I was staring at them on the wall in the “honey

Miel McCaig Honey

Premier Exhibitor awards from Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

room”. They have won Premier Exhibitor at Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair 10 years consecutively. It is the largest combined indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world. Honey producers can enter five distinct types of honey—granulated, comb, cut comb, liquid, chunk—in hopes of winning the coveted Premier Exhibitor Award, presented to the entrant with the most points in each category.[1]

Miel McCaig Honey

Blue ribbons from several American shows line the wall

They have also won at a slew of North American shows. I told her she made it look easy, but she disagrees, “We showed for many years at the Royal before winning awards.” At the end of the competition you can see your points. So every year they knew what they had to work on. And they did.

Miel McCaig Honey

John McCaig with his hives in Ontario

A few years ago they decided to stop showing, wanting instead to wind down production and take life a bit easier. Their peers were quite upset: Miel McCaig Honey had become the producer to beat! But just about this time, their son John, who had always shown an interest in their apian enterprise, had changed course in his life as well and was ready to take over the family business. He learned from his parents, and even took some courses on raising queens with Penny. He was immediately hooked.  I also had a chance to visit John out on his farm in Ontario just over the border. I sensed the same quiet passion in him as I do in his parents when they talk of their bees. “You learn every time you go out there. I’ve always been amazed,” John explains. Both he and his parents have purposefully kept the production to a level where they can continue to keep a close eye on each hive. John has also expanded to raising queen bees, which is important

Miel McCaig Honey

Starter hives that will be getting ready for winter

to the region, since beekeepers prior have been buying bees to the South from warmer areas. They can bring in disease or simply not hold up in the colder climate. He also sells starter hives for emerging beekeepers or ones needing to replace lost hives. They already rent their bees for pollination, but John also wants to target certain fields in order to get blueberry or buckwheat honey. Both he and his parents use organic practices, and John has his bees on two or three organic farms. In total they have 200 hives.

Miel McCaig Honey

Penny McCaig with a golden jar of honey

Before leaving the “honey room” Penny shows me some photos on display. On top is written, “Ento 446”. In 2002, they were asked to teach the same course that they had taken those many years ago on MacDonald Campus. A lot of work went into preparing it, but it was well worth it. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, her or the students by her retelling of it. “Bees and pollination is the heart of agriculture” she told the students. Although they no longer teach the credit course, she still takes people out for field days in the spring time, for anyone who has a bit of curiosity about bees[2]. Who knows, maybe life will conspire with your curiosity as well, and you will become a future beekeeper, watching with excitement as the trees get ready to bloom.


Miel McCaig Honey

Several types of honey and beeswax candles from Miel McCaig Honey

To get your taste of this award-winning honey, head over to Finnegan’s tomorrow for the last day of the market. Otherwise, you can find their products at both the Hudson and Saint-Lazare IGA, and the Marché Daoust Fruits et Légumes at 2845 Route Harwood, Vaudreuil-Dorion.

You are also welcome to contact them and pick some up direct:

John McCaig: [email protected], 1-866-595-0055

Penny and Jim McCaig: [email protected], 450-455-8345

[1] Fraser Abe, “Five Reasons to Hit the Royal Winter Fair,”, n.d.,



[2] If interested in Penny’s next field day, email her at: [email protected] to be put on her list.


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