Most people with a deadly allergy steer clear of their allergen, but despite the risk of anaphylaxis, elite boxer Emmanuel Romesh Fernando is a beekeeper.
Fernando became a beekeeper in a roundabout way; the Commonwealth Games alumnus woke up one morning to discover a bee colony had made a home in his backyard.
He now runs the Furious Bee Honey Co. with co-workers David Jenkins and Jason Baird, a honey company that is staffed exclusively by boxers.
Established in 2017, the company prides itself on its high quality, unrefined product.
“Everything we have nowadays is processed—from an ideology, to our food, everything’s processed,” Fernando said.
“We concentrate on being real. I’m trying to be all formal here, but we’re boxers.”
“It’s a convergence of two industries because it’s a raw product, and we’re trying to convey that message because we’re raw as well—we’re not refined.”
Fernando is planning to begin a Boxing and Beekeeping program for Indigenous youth with the help of the Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH) and the Indigenous Players Alliance.
The program is still in its formation stages but Fernando hopes within a few weeks the next steps will be taken towards progressing the project.
He said the combination of teaching boxing at his gym and beekeeping in the bush provides a surprisingly holistic set of attitudes.
“I had this plan of boxing and beekeeping; they’re actually intertwined,” he said.
“One teaches you discipline [and] how to live in society, and the other one teaches you respect; how to connect with the universe and ecology and care for the earth.”
The Boxing and Beekeeping program will be a natural extension of the work Fernando is already doing with youth at Peterson’s Gym in Rivervale; most of the clients at the gym are from the Belmont Indigenous community in the area.
“Discrimination doesn’t exist in a boxing gym. No one cares about your religion or your race. It’s about how much heart you have and how much you want to put in to get where you’re going,” he said.
Furious Bee donates some of the proceeds from their sales back to FISH, and will be attending the Indigenous Emerging Business Forum (IEBF) on October 23.
The IEBF will allow Fernando and Furious Bee to connect with Indigenous businesses and build mutual support.
“We’re here for the long haul, and we want to be more connected with other people who are in for the same kind of reasons, and work with them.”
He said it’s an opportunity to bounce ideas around and make a community of like-minded businesses.
Between the hard, physical labour of moving beehives and the intense relational work with disadvantaged kids at the boxing gym, Fernando said the only thing that keeps him going is passion.
“It’s a 12-hour day just to move [the beehives] from one spot to another, and then you have to do all the work at the gym because every personality has issues, especially where they come from, and you go home and sit down then you do it all again tomorrow,” he said.
“If you’ve got passion you can … get through.”
By Sarah Smit
NIT is the proud media sponsor of IEBF 2020.