Mission residents Helmut and Olena Straner, are in the process of trading in their successful careers in the high-tech industry for a new life of tending to honey bees. / Kevin Mills Photos

Mission residents Helmut and Olena Straner, are in the process of trading in their successful careers in the high-tech industry for a new life of tending to honey bees. / Kevin Mills Photos

Engineering couple buzz from corporate jobs to honey farming in Mission

Husband-and-wife team at Viewcrest Farms leasing land from District of Mission for more beehives

A corporate career can offer many rewards, but for a pair of Mission engineers, honey is where the heart is.

Husband-and-wife team, Helmut and Olena Straner, are in the process of trading their success in high-tech industries for a life tending to the bees.

“I do want to escape the big corporate life,” Helmut said. “When you’re one of those millions of wheels in a big machine, working seven days a week – burnout, stress, unrealistic expectations – in the last five to eight years, I realized that you can be happy doing something on your own.”

Helmut is a robotics engineer by trade, formerly working at a large corporation in Silicon Valley, and founding a semi-conductor company with clients around the world; Olena has a masters degree in engineering, and works in the Canadian aerospace industry as a director and consultant.

But both fondly remember youthful summers with their grandparents in Europe.

Helmut was woken up at 5 a.m. to work on the family’s farm in Austria, and Olena watched her grandfather tend beehives in the Ukraine.

Now, at the ages 41 and 35, they are buzzing back to those roots with Viewcrest Farms.

“Now I’ve discovered I really like working with them, basically, it’s my thing,” Olena said.

While both are still technically doing engineering work from their home offices, they are starting to manage honey bees instead of people. This is the retirement plan and pension plan, Helmut said.

“On a day like today in the afternoon, you can sit on your tractor and till your land, and you’re getting something done, but you’re not in stress,” Helmut said. He cites his competitive nature and working too hard as the catalyst behind his exodus from his former career path.

The mid-life career change is not a gamble, according to Helmut, who said there was a worldwide shortage of honey in 2020.

“The beauty with (keeping) honey bees, is that you could compare it to mining gold,” he said. “You can make the same money as someone going to work five days a week, putting in 40 hours in an office, somewhere without windows.”

Olena agreed, and said their project is structured, methodical, and something they’ve been working towards for years.

The couple started off with two hives when they bought their one acre Mission property in 2017, this year, they have 65. Part of their home has been converted to allow them to process honey.

They’ve grown so fast they’ve had to get creative to find space for more hives.

Helmut said they first approached neighbours, but some were wary of bears, stings or having strangers walk on their property every three days in the summer.

They reached out to the District of Mission to ask about leasing unused municipal land, and received a positive response from Chief Administrative Officer Mike Younie, who suggested submitting a formal application.

They were successful, with council calling their business plan “impressive,” Helmut said.

“Every cinder block, every two-by-four and every litre of diesel I buy, I buy locally,” he said, adding leasing land from the government is a common practice in Europe.

“We pay an annual fee (to the District), it is a good chunk of money, but compared to a mortgage … it’s really a small fraction.”

Olena said both came to Canada separately, with only two suitcases each, jeans and t-shirts and a couple hundred bucks in their accounts.

“Now 12 years later, we’re seeing that it’s possible to establish a good life in Canada by doing multiple things, not necessarily limiting yourself. You can do engineering and farming and enjoy time with the dog at the same time.”

WATCH: Cutting-edge B.C. lab opens to detect fake honey


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.



Honey  /  Kevin Mills Photo

Just Posted

Chilliwack Spartans Swim Club coach Justin Daly.
Chilliwack Spartans swim coach Justin Daly wins Rubber Boot Award

Daly was recognized in a vote by fellow coaches in the BC Swim Coaches Association

Linnea Labbee outside the Chilliwack Law Courts on April 1, 2021 on day 16 of her trial in BC Supreme Court. Labbee was convicted April 12 for the fatal hit-and-run of 78-year-old Fourghozaman Firoozian on Dec. 1, 2016. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Sentencing hearing scheduled for 72-year-old Chilliwack woman found guilty in fatal hit-and-run

Crown will seek jail time for Linnea Labbee who struck and killed 78-year-old woman in 2016

Dr. Keith Carlson, director of Peace and Reconciliation Centre, will be the MC and moderator for the June 23 webinar Islamophobia: Seeking Solutions for Hate. (Submitted photo)
Seminar presented on Islamophobia: Seeking Solutions for Hate

UFV webinar on June 23 features speakers who will draw on lived experience

The latest data from the BC Centre for Disease Control. (BCCDC graphic)
Chilliwack COVID case count moving towards zero

From a high of 156 around Christmas, Chilliwack’s local health authority reported just 17 last week

May 2021 crime rates down from last year: Agassiz RCMP

Mounties see trend of catalytic converter thefts in Agassiz, Harrison

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Ridge Meadows RCMP seized drugs, cash and guns from a house on Lougheed Highway and 221 Street. (Special to The News)
RCMP seize drugs, cash and guns from Maple Ridge house

Items were recovered after search warrant executed on Lougheed Highway home June 11

Fire near Highway 97 C close to Merritt. (Facebook)
Wildfire burning near Highway 97C

The fire is an estimated nine hectares in size

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

Most Read