Crowsnest Pass | Back To The Land |

Crowsnest Cafe’ and Fly Shop in the heart of the Crowsnest Pass.

When I first came up with the project “Back To The Land”, I wanted to create a short trailer to help tell the story of the people I have photographed thus far throughout Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. So I hired Chantelle Kolesnik from DDG (Deluxe Design Group) to work with me and create the trailer for “Back To The Land”. I wanted to give the audience a better visual of the project that showed the process of traveling from town to town while inspiring a desire to explore the unknown and celebrate that connection to Canada for those who call this country home. For the human element of the trailer, we needed to find someone who not only fit the project scope and vision but also someone who was comfortable in front of the lens. That’s where Susan Murray (Suzie) came on my radar and who I also wanted to photograph for this project. After a little convincing and once Suzie agreed, the next thing was to decide on a location to tell her story. I started to scout around the Crowsnest Pass and for those that do not know, it is made up of five small towns; Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank, Blairmore, and Coleman. Having access to such an array of communities, this gave Chantelle and I a huge variety of material to work with. From small towns, open fields, Rocky Mountains, rivers, and more, Chantelle and I spent two weekends out in the Crowsnest Pass filming 14 hours a day and driving as far as Brocket and Fernie to get the shots we needed to bring the whole trailer together.

After the trailer was launched and photographs edited, I recently sat down with Suzie to find out more of her life story. Suzie was born in Kingston Ontario then moved briefly to the UK and then back to Canada where she received a BA in Philosophy. From there she spent the next 10 years travelling all over the world as far as India, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal. With her love for travelling she would return back to Canada every so often working in Banff in order to fund the next adventure halfway around the globe. When I asked Suzie about each of these places she visited, she had few words but looking into her eyes I could see the memories flash with expressions of joy and subtle smiles that revealed everything that words could not express. Speaking from experience and when you actively travel and live in another country, it’s hard to find the words as most people who travel will tell you it’s one of those things that you do, live, and experience. Suzie did however say “I don’t think I’ll ever return to Europe”.

With all the traveling Suzie did your probably wondering how and when she made The Crowsnest Pass her home. Suzie did visit the Crowsnest Pass when she was 29 meeting a guy which ended up becoming her husband Al, however her first impression of the area was far from sublime and I quote “Why would anyone live in this god forsaken town”. Marrying her husband Al and finding a love for fly fishing, she soon feel in love with the area and fast forward to 1998 when Suzie decided to open up The Crowsnest Cafe’ in Blairmore. Then in 2003 she moved the cafe’ to Coleman inside a tiny little house neighbouring the 7-Eleven on highway 3. Then again in 2004 took on a small demolition, knocked down some walls and added a fly shop which is now the Crowsnest Cafe’ and fly Shop. Along with serving up homemade and organic food, she and her husband also guide on the river systems that surround the area sharing the world-class fly-fishing the Crowsnest Pass has to offer. Most of Suzies clients come from Southern Alberta and BC, but regularly guides for people from Montana, Washington, California, Texas, and occasionally visitors as far as Italy and Germany. If your ever in the Crowsnest Pass area and your hungry, you need to try her homemade soups and pie… it’s out of this world delicious. Plus if you gassing up at the 7-Eleven next door save yourself from buying that processed packaged sandwich as The Crowsnest Cafe’ and Fly Shop will not disappoint as everything is made from scratch. Plus you can always count on a friendly chat and expect no shortage of other fisherman in the store to geek out on some fly fishing.





Susan Murray - Fly fishing in the Crowsnest Pass


Susan Murray - Fly fishing in the Crowsnest Pass













Ron Aust | Back To The Land

Ron Aust’s General store in Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.

On my first few days in Val Maire, Saskatchewan my days were spent visiting the cafe’s and the local hangouts introducing myself to locals, getting a good feel of the surrounding landscape and deciding on who I could potentially photograph. One thing I find interesting about this Back To The Land project is each place I visit for any period of time, I know immediately if I’ll be staying for five minutes or five days. This is purely based on intuition and gut feelings. I have always wondered where does this gut feeling come from and why does it happen? I do sometimes think about what might have transpired in life if I ever chose to ignore that little voice that sits at the bottom of my stomach. Would I be living in Canada, would I have found photography, where would I be mentally and physically? Myself and I’m sure many others as well have ignored that “gut feeling” at least once in their life and in my own personal experience, nine times out of ten that decision was always met with regret. From these regrettable decisions in the past, I now listen to that voice regardless of the severity of the decision, even if the outcome that I hoped for does not show itself immediately, however in the end it always works out and for the better.

One morning as I was staying in Rockglen, Saskatchewan, Neil Jones, Jan, Leary and I met up for coffee at the local diner Burning Hills Cafe and we started talking about other people who they might know and would possibly be a good fit for my Canada project. Neil mentioned I should check out a place call Big Beaver, Saskatchewan. I stopped him in mid-sentence asking him to repeat the name of the town as I thought I was hearing things. Neil laughed and reassured me the town was called “Big Beaver”. The four of us all must have laughed for a minute or two all while repeating the name several times just cause it was fun to say. Neil said there was a general store in the small town where you could buy anything from a box of Cheerios to gun ammunition. Still trying not to laugh, Neil went on to explain a gentleman named Ron Aust owned and operated the store and it was called “Austs General Store” with a slogan that made the store quite famous and could have not been more perfect. “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”.

After hearing this my gut was screaming to check this place out from which I immediately jumped into my taco and headed east. The drive itself to Big Beaver was beautiful, passing through a couple other small towns along the way all while taking in the beautiful prairies of Saskatchewan. The town is located just off highway 18 and you have to keep your eyes open as there is only one small green sign that marks the turn off a couple hundred meters before you head North 1 km into the town. Once I arrived I was shocked on how remote and small this little town was. There are only a couple of streets and avenues with an array of random houses on each of them. You can’t miss the Aust General Store as you pull into town and as I parked out front, there were already a couple of families loading supplies into their trucks. As I walked into the store, it was quite the scene where I had to adjust my eyes and take a few minutes of what I was witnessing. There was canned fruit, toilet seats, knick-knacks, clothing, hunting gear, kitchen utensils and everything in between stacked floor to ceiling high. The store was by no means messy but very organized with every item having its own intended space and position. I spent a good 20 minutes carefully looking at everything on each shelf down each corridor and isle making a few laps just so I didn’t miss anything.

As I made my way back to the entrance, I noticed a man working the front and asked him where I could find Ron Aust. The gentleman said “Yah I’m Ron, how can I help you”. I proceeded to tell him why I was in town, my project, and if he would be willing to sit for a portrait. Ron happily agreed and I told him I just needed 15 minutes to set up. Ron went about his business helping other customers until I was ready to take his photograph. Once I had my lights set-up which was quite a challenge given the very limited real estate in the shop, I called Ron over and as I was taking some test shots I asked him a little about the store and its history. It turns out his parents owned it before passing it down to him and has been in the family now for 56 years. Even parts of the building date back to 1928 as the store now spans across the neighboring buildings to house all the supplies and inventory.

Along with all the merchandise Ron also shared his guestbook which hundreds of visitors have signed over the years along with personal messages from all across North America and even some parts of the world. It was an honour and pleasure to photograph Ron one place I will never forget and hope to visit again very soon.

I hope you enjoy the photographs and if you want to see more, feel free to subscribe to the blog at the top of the screen





Wes Olson | Back To The Land

The go-to bison guy Wes Olson

On my first few days in Val Maire, Saskatchewan I continued my pursuit in finding people with interesting stories. I managed to find Wes Olson randomly by one of the ladies that runs the coffee shop at the local museum just off the main highway as you pull into Val Marie. Usually when I decide to stay in a town for an extended period of time, I usually hit up the local spots getting a good feel for the area and the people who call each town home. As I ordered just a drip coffee from the lady at the counter, I also asked her about various people in the town and if she knew anyone that stuck out in her mind within the community who had an interesting story to tell. She immediately mentioned two men, Wes Olson and Jim Commodore – I’ll get to Jim in a later blog. She gave me Wes’s phone number and once I finished my coffee I immediately gave him a call. We spoke on the phone briefly, I told him what I was doing, my intentions and if he was willing to have his photograph taken. Wes was intrigued and we made arrangements to meet at his home to talk about it more which was just down the street. When I first met Wes I was quite surprised how tall he was as I’m sure most people are. He had a gentle face with the most amazing cowboy moustache you have ever seen. I also met his wife Johanne who was very kind and made me tea as the three of us talked more about my Back To The Land project.

It turns out Wes Olson is quite the “go to guy” when it comes to anything Bison. Already retired, he has worked with bison for over 30 years which has taken him across the country and globe working with various species of Bison. This knowledge that Wes has gained started by growing up in and around the outdoors his entire life. He worked as a wildlife technician for the Yukon government for several years, then in 1981 worked for Parks Canada as a National Park Warden in Banff, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, Prince Albert and Grasslands National Parks retiring in 2012. On top of all this, Wes is also an incredible artist with his inspiration coming from the natural world that has surrounded him his whole life. If you want to see more of Wes Olsen’s work you can visit his website here.

When Wes happily agreed to be part of my project, I could have not been more thrilled and when I told him what I had in mind for a photograph he assured me he knew exactly where to take me to scout the location. Wes having been a park warden for the Grasslands National Park, he had access and knowledge of every square inch of the park which was a huge bonus for me because I could explain exactly what I wanted and Wes calmly would say with a subtle head nod “Yes… I can find you that”. When we headed out to take his portrait, we stopped at one particular spot that I thought was ideal. The sun was in the best possible position, the plains looked beautiful, and the sky was flawless. Wes however had a different opinion and immediately spoke up “I don’t like it” he said with intent. I was a little confused and when I cautiously asked his reasons why, he said “I refuse to have my picture taken with a species of plant that is not native to the grasslands” as he pointed to a bunch of yellow sweet clover. I was humbled and so proud by his response as it clearly showed his love for this landscape which he himself helped maintain over the years. We proceeded down the gravel road, Wes re-assuring me he as he did with a chuckle that he knew a spot where all the surrounding plant life were native to the land.

We arrived at our location and it was beautiful. We also brought along a bison skull to add another element to the photograph. I took a few photo’s with just natural light and a bunch using my portable studio light. In the end we only spent 20 minutes taking photo’s and once I was happy with the results we packed up and headed back to Val Marie. The drive back was actually one of my favourite moments with Wes. I asked him questions about his experience with bison, his life as a warden and after every passing minute he seemed to open up more and more. I found Wes to be one of calmest people I know. Saying only what needed to be said but leaving you wanting to know more about his past. He went on to explain his experiences living in the bush, setting up a bison breeding program in Siberia and his love for travelling with his wife Johanne, who turns out is also a photographer. To this day I still wish I asked Wes more questions and had the opportunity to pick his brain for weeks, I enjoyed the time spent with him and is one that I will always cherish.

I hope you enjoy the photo’s and feel free to subscribe to this blog if you want to see more from this project “Back To The Land”.


Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan


Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan


Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan


Wes Olson from Val Marie, Saskatchewan

by Jeremy Fokkens

show hide 2 comments

August 29, 2015 - 9:38 am

Connie Henuset I have known Wes and Johane for 30 years and I am blessed to have them as friends. They are very unique in their own ways.

I like the colour of shirt Wes worn for the photo shoot. The blue is subtle against the blue sky which reflects Wes’s personality – never one to stand out in a crowd (however it is difficult not to notice him because of his physique) and goes about in a humble way doing his work.

Thanks for giving a well deserved friend the spotlight!

August 29, 2015 - 11:44 am

Gail Beuhler I met Wes and Johane about a year ago and heard Wes give a talk on bison. I agree that the information that he shares leaves you wanting more. A very interesting couple and I am pleased to have met them.

Neil Jones | Back To The Land

Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan

Having only spent less than a week on the road, I am still in awe of the endless skies and rolling hills that meet the horizon in the province of Saskatchewan. It’s wave like grasslands and wheat fields dance in the wind reminding me of coral reefs swaying in unison among the ocean currents that bring them to life. When venturing off any major highway or road, you can find this authentic quiet that is true to the Canadian prairies among its natural beauty and vast landscapes.

With Canada’s authentic landscapes comes authentic residents. One resident that comes to mind is self-taught artist Neil Jones. I met Neil in the Val Marie campground during my stay while photographing John Reynolds family honey farm. On one afternoon when I was not shooting other residents of Val Marie, I noticed a couple pulled into the campground towing a beautiful Boler camper; imagine Dr Seuss and Ikea get together, drink way to many beers and decide to break into the RV market. After a few days I made my way over to my campground neighbours to introduce myself. Neil and Jan had two lovely dogs and immediately we started chatting about where each of us were from exchanging stories and reasons for visiting Val Marie. Both Neil and Jan were so kind and I was curious about their Boler camper, so I asked if they could give me a quick tour. Both laughing at my curiosity, they opened the door and I was shocked on how much room this fibreglass pod could hold. There was a double bed, room for a fridge, it had a stove, and more than enough storage for a never-ending road trip. Plus it was under 500lbs, enough for a Scandinavian athlete to pull on his 10 speed bicycle.

Within the first hour of our conversation, Neil and Jan had already offered an open invitation to visit the two of them at their home in Rockglen, Saskatchewan with the possibility of introducing me to other individuals they knew who might be willing to share their story for the Back To The Land project. I told Neil and Jan coincidentally my plans were to keep driving east in hopes of finding more towns along the way and that a short visit in Rockglen would be wonderful. Through-out the week we managed to hang out a few more times and right before they were leaving Val Marie for good, I asked Neil if he would be willing to sit for a portrait and without hesitation Neil happily said yes. I took 20 minutes of Neils time, set up a couple of lights and took a few photographs. It turns out Neil is from Saskatchewan and from Welsh decent. I asked Neil to describe his work and he said “My work brings history to the canvas focusing on first nations, their life as great people and the land they call home”. Neil loves the natural world and does so by portraying it as best he can while working in Oil paint to accomplish this. To see more of Neil Jones incredible art work please visit his website by clicking here.

Once I have finished taking a bunch of frames, Neil and I exchanged contact info and Jan made it quite clear that if and when I was in Rockglen to give them a call. The story however does not end here. After I finished spending 9 days in Val Marie I did manage to make my way East and took Jan and Neil up on their invitation to stay in Rockglen. Fast forward one week and I was on the front steps of Neil and Jan’s home. Rockglen itself is a beautiful little town with one main street surrounded by gorgeous prairie landscapes filled with coulees and rolling hills that create the perfect backdrop for Neil’s work and inspiration. It was also great to see where the two of them lived, including Neil’s gallery and studio which occupies the front foyer of their home where Neil paints and exhibits his work to the public. They also host bands from across the country using their home as a venue for live music, where people come from surrounding small towns and communities to see various musicians play in their living room as most music venues in small towns tend to be at the local hotel’s, pubs, or nothing at all. Neil and Jan also invited me to have dinner with one of their friends Leary Mulvena who owned a ranch in the middle of no-where where one evening we had a steak dinner, went for a drive through some of the back roads and ended the evening with a scramble up to a look out where you could see the Montana border followed by a beautiful sunset. It was a great day filled with new friends and a side of Canada I can not wait to return too.

Unfortunately I was not able to find anyone else to photograph in Rockglen, Saskatchewan, however Neil mentioned a gentleman who owned a convenience store in a small remote town called Big Beaver, Saskatchewan… I know what your thinking and I still laugh out loud knowing there is a town called “Big Beaver”.

I will leave it at that, I hope you enjoy the photographs, and stay tuned for more stories from both Val Marie and Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.

-If you know of someone who has led an interesting life and lives in a small or remote town (Under 500) somewhere… or anywhere in Canada, feel free to send me an email and let me know.

Feel free to subscribe as well as there will be a blog post 2-3 times per month.


Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan
Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan
Self taught artist Neil Jones from Rockglen, Saskatchewan

August 25, 2015 - 8:34 am

Paul Campeau Hi Jeremy, I remember you when you went to Prince of Peace school with Renata. My Grandfather & an Uncle are both buried in the Val Marie cemetery which I have visited a number of times. I enjoyed your article on Neil Jones. Keep up the good work.

Val Marie, Saskatchewan | Back To The Land

Beekeeping in Val Marie, Saskatchewan.

After photographing Arthur James in Orkney, Saskatchewan and thrilled having found my first subject for my “Back To The Land” project, I continued East and headed towards Val Marie, which lies on the borders of Grasslands National Park. As I pulled off the highway, I made my way down centre street and within 100 meters I managed to spot the post office, the local grocer, a cafe’ and a couple buildings that were either in the early stages of a renovation or demolition.With my appetite starting to grow into a serious case of the “hangry’s”, I pulled into the cute little cafe’ called The Harvest Moon Cafe. I walked in and I could not help but notice the large photographs displayed on the wall showcasing the majestic grasslands and the Bison that call these grasslands home. I wasn’t the only person in the cafe as there was a family enjoying their lunch as well. Making small chat with the waitress and having troubles deciding what to order, I went with her suggestion and proceeded to chat with the family sitting across the restaurant from me. They shared some info about the park, where they were from, and we exchanged our reasons why each of us were visiting Val Marie and also getting the run down of accommodations in the area. After an awesome sandwich and salad lunch, I decided to check out Val Marie’s own campground that was just around the corner from the cafe’ in hopes of setting up shop for an undetermined amount of time.

The campsite was nothing more than a large rectangular patch of roughly landscaped grass about 200’ x 250’  with large poplar trees that surrounded the perimeter of the property. There were no noticeable markers or signs distinguishing each site, just random picnic tables scattered around the campsite. I assumed you just parked under or next to a tree and that was your spot… as far as I was concerned this was perfect. I found my spot underneath one of the larger poplars with low hanging branches to hide my truck from the hot Saskatchewan sun. I then set-up my tent, moved a picnic table closer to my truck, and settled in. From there I decided to go for a walk and check out the parks office and the museum and coffee shop just off the highway. I made my way into the museum and was greeted by a very friendly woman. I ordered a coffee and asked her if she knew anyone in the town that had an interesting story. She proceeded to tell me about Wes Olson and Jim Commodore. She gave me each of their contact information and continued to tell me about the area and the people that call Val Marie home. I finished my coffee and went back to the campsite to make some phone calls and explore the rest of the town. The next morning I woke up early, had eggs for breakfast on my trusty coleman stove and decided to return to the Harvest Moon Cafe’ for some coffee, as I forgot my bodum press back in Calgary, and yes it’s the one luxury I take with me on the road, that and a good bottle of scotch for after those long days of shooting.

As I sat drinking my coffee, I began chatting with the local waitress asking her about the area and the people in the town. I proceeded to tell her about my photography project and if she knew anybody that stuck out in her mind that I might be able to potentially photograph, mentioning my general list of hopeful subjects; farmers, artists, bee-keepers, etc. And as soon as I said the word “Bee-keeper”. She said “YES… and I know just the person”. She gave me a name and number and told me to give them a call.

The phone started to ring and the other line picked up


Me: “Is John Reynolds there?”…

“Are you looking for John Sr. or John Jr?”.

Not knowing there were two John’s in the house hold, I went out on a limb and asked for John Senior, which turned out was the man who answered the phone. I began to tell John Senior who I was and my reasons for calling which he then calmly started telling me that he had a freak accident and broke his neck three days prior to my call. Still in a wheel chair and brace he mentioned his grandson might be better off helping me with my project and from there he passed the line over to his grandson John Junior. John junior answered the phone with such enthusiasm and small town hospitality that can only be expected from rural Canada. After telling him about my reasons for calling, it turns out he had relocated him and his family to Val Marie to keep the Triple R Honey Ranch on track as John Senior did most of the labour prior to his horrible fall that almost left him a paraplegic. The good news was the doctors expected a full recovery. I asked John if it’s possible to meet up and find out more of what goes into the day and life of a bee keeper, possibly meet his grandfather, and find out more info about the family honey farm and the production behind it. He happily agreed and in two days I was on Johns door step.

Before I could even knock John opened the door and I could not believe my eyes, there in front of me stood the most incredible character that certainly did not fit the description I had pictured in my mind; a timid young farmer with levi 501 jeans and a plaid shirt to finish. Instead, stood this 185lb thick tattoo covered friendly giant with an orange beard that would make any biker jealous. His physical appearance was something out of a Mad Max movie and would catch anyone off guard if it wasn’t for Johns genuine and welcoming smile. Immediately after introducing ourselves I could help not notice John’s positive gentle nature and enthusiasm in welcoming me to his home and town. He immediately shook my hand firmly and introduced me to his lovely wife Carly and their two beautiful energetic children Wyatt and Olivia who immediately invited me to jump on the trampoline. I sat down with the family and talked more about my Canada project, my intentions, what I was hoping to achieve and also wanting to know more about the history of their family. Once John and Carly gave me the thumbs up to document their honey operation and their day to day life as bee-keepers, I could have not been more honoured, humbled and above all excited to photograph such wonderful people.

That night they decided to give me a little taste of what I was in for over the next 9 days which at that time was not what I had planned. I only kept postponing my departure from Val Marie because I was having way too much fun both with bee-keeping and meeting other people (More to come on that). That evening we drove through some of the towns backroads visiting two out of the five honey yards they owned that were in various locations, checking to see how the bees were doing and the progress of the honey which would soon be harvested in the coming days. The first thing I immediately noticed was the constant humming in the air as hundreds of bees surrounded you, approaching each yard that consisted of several hives. I wore a face shield but John reassured me I didn’t need one at that time nor needed gloves as we were just checking the hive and wouldn’t be disturbing the bees that much. Skeptical as I was, I trusted him (only with the gloves) and within a span of an hour never once did a bee sting John, Carly or myself. I also noticed the bees were quite calm as John and Carly checked each hive being careful not to aggravate any of the bees that were within inches from their bare skin. John reiterated that when they started to harvest the honey and break down each hive, the situation will change drastically and when that happens we will be forced to wear face shields and gloves.

The first few days of the harvest started with John and Carly showing me their hives by separating each crate that were stacked 5 feet high. From there they were able to show me the general production on how bees make honey, what makes up the hive, and the different types of bees and their purposes within the colony. ON one occasion we were even able to find the queen in one of the hives. By the time we had the first few crates of our first hive, the bees at this point were in  survival mode and the air was covered in tens of thousands of bees. I can still hear the constant buzz that was almost deafening as it could also be heard from hundreds of feet away. The one thing I loved about watching Carly and John work was their attention to detail, putting as little stress on the bees as possible which was just as important as the quality of their honey, making sure bee casualties were at a minimum. After all the crates were separated and placed on the ground from each hive, we now had to let them rest for six hours, allowing the bees to calm down before our return in the evening to load the crates onto the truck and drive them back to the processing room back in Val Marie. This whole process took a few days and there was one thing that I still found fascinating but caught me off guard when it happened; One evening John asked me to help load crates with him and I jumped at the opportunity, eagerly picking up my first one not before nearly giving myself a hernia. The thing must of weighed over 100lbs. Now lifting 100lbs is not hard, but you never expect honey to have that much weight especially out of a 24″x 20″x 12″ crate. It’s the added +30 degree weather, wearing thick clothing head to toe, and the added pressure of wanting to perform and not disappoint John and Carly. On one of the nights we ended up working late into the night and my over confident bragging caught up with me as I still had bragging rights because I had not been stung yet. Being stung by a bee or wasp is not a big deal, it’s happened to all of us, and it’s not the worst thing that can happen. It only sucks when it happens again, then again, then again, and again. This is what happened to me and and when it did, I was losing my mind wondering what the hell was going on as I kept frantically looking over body for any signs that bees were able to penetrate. Then there’s that feeling of insects crawling up your leg and for that split second you think to your self “This is not good”. That’s when I noticed I had a small hole in the bottom of my pants. There was nothing really I could do except say, “Oh Shit” and cover the hole and kill anything that was moving inside my pants. I briefly thought about running away to take my pants off, however that was not an option as there was too much work to be done. John came over and quickly rubbed my leg which ended up leaving me with a few more stings from the remainder of the bees in my pants. By this time it was getting very late, we were all exhausted and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

Once we finished loading all the crates onto the back of the truck with no shortage of a few more swear words and grunts, we packed everything up and headed back to Val Marie. As I arrived back at my campsite, I immediately went right for the public shower eager to get out of my sticky sweaty clothing. The pants were the first to come off and I quickly noticed about 20 stings on my right leg which by now was 30% larger than my left. I was too tired to treat it with anything, instead I took a long hot shower, made my way across the camp-ground half naked in a towel, and crawled into my coffin of a tent and immediately fell asleep. The next morning I woke up and felt a little stiff, shrugging it off as normal body aches from the past few days in the fields, until I stepped out of my tent and fell flat on my face. I couldn’t bend my right leg or kneel down without having significant pain. The swelling had increased over night and my joints were starting to seize. John assured me the swelling would go down and not to worry. He was right, but holy shit is it uncomfortable and my walking didn’t return to normal until seven days later. My advice to anyone wanting to work around bees, wear the gear and make sure you have no holes in your clothing. Oh and bring duct tape… lots of it.

It was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend anyone do. The photographs below will provide better visuals and give you a taste into what I would consider one of the best chance encounters I have ever had the honour of experiencing.


If you have any questions or know someone in a small town (Less than 500) that has led an interesting life that should be told, send me a message.


by Jeremy Fokkens

show hide 7 comments

August 17, 2015 - 11:42 am

Carly Amazing!! :-)

August 17, 2015 - 12:14 pm

Lindsay WOW. Amazing photos, Jeremy! You are so talented! And I’m so jealous you got to see John and Carly’s work up close(though not of the bee stings, haha). They are good friends of mine. So glad you got to meet them and capture this part of their lives. So loved looking at each photo.

August 18, 2015 - 5:09 am

Shelley Thank you so much for capturing this amazing family hard at work! I love the story and being a Professional Photographer I admired the beautiful pictures. It sure gave me an insight of how hard owning an Appairy really is!!!

August 18, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Shawn Great captures!

Full of character.

I especially like the shots with the swarms of bees in the air and the light catching their wings.

Somehow a metal guitar soundtrack seems appropriate.

August 18, 2015 - 3:58 pm

Malcolm You’ve got some great work in these shots Jeremy….nicely done.

August 18, 2015 - 5:34 pm

Robert Scott Beautiful as always Jeremy!

August 18, 2015 - 6:37 pm

John Reynolds Jr. Now this Brothers & Sisters will be a book worthy of the read 😉
Any project Jeremy is involved in he sets the bar very high so please like/share and talk Mr.Fokkens into the opportunities he dreams of.