Catherine Flurin, an organic beekeeping pioneer
An awakening. In 1976, the 20 year old Catherine Flurin was fascinated by bees and wanted to become a beekeeper. Beekeeper from the Nature & Progrès network taught her the basics of this enthralling vocation, the practitioners of which are also referred to as "Bee whisperers". However, at that time, the beekeeping methods Catherine taught was focussed on maximizing production, using intensive, sometimes harsh methods, antibiotics and harmful herbicides. Right from the start, Catherine took the polar-opposite approach and developed a method called Apiculture DOUCE® based on respecting the bees’ welfare and their natural biological cycles. A new world opened up to her: that of the inhabitants of the Hive, an ongoing story wich is millions of years old and which has new secrets to reveal to her every single day.
Bees show us that there is another way to work with nature, giving us an example that we would do well to follow: they create gold – honey, which is both a foodstuff and a medicine -, they provide for their needs without ever harming the environment. On the contrary, they create riches all around thanks to the process of pollination (see "Les Bienfaits de l'Apithérapie" - "The benefits of the medicinal use of bee products").
The first hives. At the age of 25, Catherine set up her first hives with her fellow beekeeper and partner, Philippe Ballot, with whom she now has three children. The young couple bought a little tumbledown property in the foothills of the Pyrenees on a two hectare site in rolling countryside. The Ballot-Flurin Apiculteurs agricultural concern is officially formed in 1982 with a highly-ambitious goal: to respect the bees as befits their status as a real little community that has been in existence for the last 100 million years, to understand their secret language, and to actively work with the hive to help it give of its best: honey, propolis, royal jelly… They were keen to take practical action and are amongst the first beekeepers to campaign for organic beekeeping, the adoption of an approach putting greater emphasis on bee welfare, and the abandonment of the use of chemical products.
The first ORGANIC charter. The honey farm attracts a loyal, ecologically-aware clientele. Catherine drew up a charter explaining the process of honey production but also her attitude towards her bees. This document inspired the Nature & Progrès not-for-profit organization to draw up the first organic charter for the beekeeping sector, developed in tandem with a labelling scheme. It seemed only natural that Ballot-Flurin products were the first to receive organic certification under this scheme.
Using bee products as a cure for ailments
As years went by, Catherine picked up the threads of old family traditions with a desire to care for people’s health and contribute to the well-being of society as a whole: she became interested in the use of bee products for medicinal ends, an age-old, natural approach to treating ailments using the finest products from the hive. Catherine came from a family line of doctors and humanists who were ahead of their time. Her father, Dr René Flurin, was an ENT specialist in Cauterets, a famous Pyrenean spa town, where the Pavillon des Abeilles is now located.
"I have always known that bees can be used to treat ailments and I treat myself with the bees: their venom relieves my back pain, propolis soothes my skin irritations. So I delved into family writings and old books, looking for instructions on how to use what used to be called the ‘medicine’ of the hive: royal jelly, propolis, pollen, beeswax and honey-based treatments."
The first bee product-based treatments. The ‘baume de soin des Pyrénées’ healing balm was the first product in the original range of bee product-based treatments that came out in 1992. After this came black propolis extract, throat lozenges and honey-based soaps and shampoos. Catherine next secured the classification of propolis as a foodstuff and obtained organic certification with the AB label. Initially used by a small group of people ‘in the know’, Ballot-Flurin products gradually gained in popularity amongst a more forward-looking clientele who were enthusiastic users of natural health and beauty treatments. Ready-to-use and completely ORGANIC, these products won over the BIOCOOP network of organic retailers, which began to stock them towards the end of the 1990s.
International recognition. Catherine Flurin continued to research the use of bee product-based treatments and methods of dynamization. This discipline is based on the observation of bees and traditional knowledge, and is currently the subject of renewed interest in the scientific and alternative medicine communities. Increasingly in demand for her expertise in the field of ‘Using bee products to treat medical ailments’, Catherine Flurin created the Association Francophone d'Apithérapie (AFA – the French-speaking Apitherapy Association) in 2009 along with Profs. Descottes and Bensch, Dr Stangaciu, Claudette Raynal and other pioneers. The progress being made in the field of apiculture DOUCE®, Apitherapy and mental well-being and dynamization are regularly mentioned and recognized at international conferences and lectures. Some processes have been patented (procedures for pollen harvesting, propolis extraction, energy-centred approaches and techniques…).
Ballot-Flurin’s expertise is based on a nature-centred approach and promotes the observation of the natural world and the use of our environment’s natural products. Bees show us that it is possible to create effective products in an environmentally-friendly fashion which do not cause the side-effects that are common in chemical-based pharmaceutical products.
The product of tireless research in the honey farm-research laboratory, the Ballot-Flurin Abeilles & Santé range is a collection of 100% natural, certified organic health and beauty products sourced from the hive.