We’re proud of our history

We’re proud of our history (and our honey)

Kahu Honey is produced by Palmer Apiaries – a company with rich family traditions (established in 1921) near Dargaville, New Zealand. For over 100 years, the Palmer family have produced honey of the highest quality.



Mr B Dignan began the apiary’s journey in 1921 on the Ruawai flats. Ruawai is nestled on the Kaipara harbour, east of Dargaville and had been established from swamp land only 13 years prior. Over the next two years Mr Dignan worked to establish a 100 hive apiary.

Ruawai in the 1920s



In 1923, Theodore and Florence Palmer purchased Mr Dignan’s business including his small honey house in Ruawai, for 150 pounds. Theodore and Florence, originally from Devon, England, had just arrived in NZ from a missionary role, in Papua New Guinea. The Palmer family would be custodians of the apiary for the next 51 years. In the early years Theodore travelled to the beeyards by bicycle, the furthest being over 20 kilometres away. 

Theodore Palmer travelled by bike to do his beekeeping.



In 1929, Theodore Palmer made his first apiary acquisition, from Mr I Pullin and with it a new brand name, “Peak Brand Honey”. The picture of the peak got incorporated into the Ruawai branding which Theodore was using.

In the early 1930s, Theodore upgraded his bicycle and purchased a Ford Model T which he converted to a small pick-up truck by replacing the back seat with an oblong wooden tray.

Theodore Palmer’s Ford Model T in a beeyard on Gordon Simpkin’s farm

After outgrowing the Ruawai honey house, Palmer apiaries moved to Naumai, a small town, situated on the Wairoa River, just eight kilometres north of Ruawai.



In 1946, Theodore’s son, Arthur Palmer, returned home at the age of 28. Arthur had spent many years studying beekeeping and learning from other beekeepers but particularly, Albert Deadman from Okoroire. A man of conviction he spent time in detention as a conscientious objector and after his release from detention, he came home and by 1956 would fully take over the operations of Palmer apiaries from his Dad. For that decade, Theodore continued to work alongside Arthur but to make ends meet he also worked as a milk tanker driver and in the Te Hana forest. Arthur lamented that “Poor Theodore must have felt the day would never come when he could expect a regular income from the bees”.

Arthur Palmer with "beebeard"



In 1948, Palmer Apiaries moved to 110 Awakino Road in Dargaville – the same location we use to this day.  Unfortunately, in 1950, the honey house suffered extensive fire damage. Arthur Palmer recalls the night watching the flames and pots of 60lb tins of manuka honey exploding through the night. Despite the disaster, suppliers, customers and friends, rallied around and ensured that Palmer Apiaries would survive. Arthur Palmer credited the heart-warming support during that difficult time, to his father’s reputation for integrity over many years.

First Dargaville Honey House

Employees Robert Dalbeth and Mike Berridge in front of the new honey house about to leave for out apiaries

Early Palmer Apiaries Branding

Palmer Apiaries truck ready for the Dargaville Christmas parade



Arthur was always pretty sure that Manuka honey was high in food value and he commented that the bees clearly thought so too because they wintered so well on it. In the early 1950s, Arthur observed that customers from Europe, and increasingly New Zealand, liked the strong taste of Manuka. And so, more than 20 years before being recognised as a table honey, Palmer Apiaries started labelling and selling Manuka honey. Arthur recalls that it was a family friend, Doris Kersten who introduced his Manuka Honey to a retailer, located in the renowned department store, Milne and Choyce in Auckland. And so, in 1959, Palmer Apiaries became the first company in NZ, and thus the world, to officially retail Manuka Honey.

Milne and Choyce, where in 1959, Palmer Apiaries became the first company in the world to sell “Manuka Honey”



In 1974, Charles Gauthern, and son Michael, purchased Palmer Apiaries. They changed the name to Dargaville Apiaries and ran the operation for almost a decade. Always willing to try new things, Charles and Michael trialled producing honey flavoured spreads and even peanut butter honey. They also switched the primary focus of the business from packing for retail, to producing comb honey for export.



In 1983, Eric Windust purchased Dargaville Apiaries. Eric’s oldest son, Daryl worked at Dargaville Apiaries during his school holidays and was encouraged by the Gauthern family to develop several hives of his own. As a youngster, Daryl sold the honey he made from his two hives using the name Beesweet Honey. So, when his Dad, Eric, purchased the apiary he renamed it Beesweet Honey. Eric continued selling cut comb honey to the Japanese market but decided to focus on selling bulk honey on the wholesale market. Beesweet Honey also produced bees which went to Canada; pollen; and bulk clover and manuka honey ready to be exported.

Collecting honey at Pouto, near Dargaville – one of NZ’s premier Manuka areas

Drums of honey ready to be exported to the UK

Eric Windust pricking frames of Manuka Honey prior to extraction



In 2021, Michael Mackinven, with a background in agriculture and Sam Allen (Baz), in commercial beekeeping, partnered to purchase Beesweet Honey. The Palmer Apiaries legacy of trustworthiness and diligence aligned with their core values and they restored the Palmer Apiaries name to honour its founders and their proud legacy. While still producing honey for the wholesale market they again started to retail bush honey, manuka honey and cut comb honey. They started to build a trusted network to connect with consumers under their new brand name, “Kahu”. And accepting the heavy responsibility of being caretakers of such a rich history, Michael and Baz have committed to build the foundation for another 100 years.

Commitment to our communities

As well as producing some of the world’s best honey our products allow us to create richer communities and connections through our 101 iniative.

The initiative is based on the dream of bringing people in our communities closer together through simple connections.

Subscribe below and we’ll let you know when we launch this exciting initiative.