The month of September is a time set aside to recognize the sweet treat of honey, the bees who make it and the beekeepers who work hard trying to save the bees, pollinate the crops and provide honey for you. The summer honey flows have come to an end and we begin to prepare for winter with our bees. We reflect on the year - the ups, the downs and the lessons learned so far.
Every year's activities are a learning opportunity for us. We have had good rain here in this part of the state this August and we are praying that the remainder of the Fall continues this way. If it does we will likely have a nice flow of amazing rich honey full of the flavors from the Fall. Of course we only take honey from the hives that have extra as we want to make sure they have plenty of stores for the winter.
As I reflect on what it means to be a beekeeper, I am reminded of why I got into this adventure 4 years ago. I LOVE HONEY!! I always have had a fondness for honey and love the golden color, not to mention that it has helped so much with my allergies. I am amazed that God has provided such a perfect wholesome treat without creating it in a factory or having to heavily process it. Just a golden delectable sweetener, made just perfect to satisfy that craving!
Now that I’ve gotten more deeply involved with what it takes to raise bees and gather the honey, I feel its really important to help our community understand the honey bee issues and the challenges in getting clean, chemical-free honey. Since one of the goals I have for this blog is education, this is a perfect time to talk about honey, the differences in local, raw and unadulterated honey and what you may find in your grocer's shelves.
Local Honey - why is it important? First local honey contains traces of pollen, nectar and resins from local plants in our area. If you suffer from allergies, ingesting small amounts of local pollen can over time help in building immunity to allergy reactions to these plants. Second - if you buy local honey, chances are you know your beekeeper and how they keep their bees. Due to many different treatments of beehives, chemicals can be placed in the hives that may be harmful to you and your family. Third - large honey resellers buy honey from all over the world many times not knowing what they have put into their hives. Keeping honey local also reduces the carbon footprint required to bring honey from oversees and supports the US economy.
Raw - What’s the deal with this “raw” honey label? Many large honey bottlers are required to pasteurize and ultra filter their honey due to the large scale imports of honey from other countries. Pasteurization and filtering removes all of the beneficial pollens, bacteria and other helpful qualities we believe are best for health and healing. At Hathaway Farms, we minimally strain the honey while extracting it directly from the hive frames. Raw honey will often crystallize when stored in your pantry, another indication of its un-pasteurized state in bottling.
Unadulterated - Basically means that what you see is what you get. Total, pure honey straight from the hive. The only way to get it fresher is to slip on a bee suit and pull the frames yourself. Some honey sold in stores may be even have added corn syrup or other fillers. Be sure to read the fine print on the bottles - beekeepers are required to tell you where your honey is harvested and that there are no other additives.
Chemical Free - You might have heard that honeybees are having a tough time these days battling a variety of pests, diseases and pesticide troubles. As beekeepers work hard to help correct these problems and help bees survive, however there are a few pests that often require chemical treatment, much like we treat our pets for ticks and fleas. Some beekeepers use conventional or commercial methods by applying chemical treatments. Other beekeepers practice sustainable or "integrated pest management" methods go a bit further and use more labor intensive and organic management techniques, but takes a lot more time, intervention and understanding bee biology to manage the pests effectively.
At Hathaway Farms, we work extremely hard to be “chemical free” and yet practice sound animal husbandry. We believe that it is important to offer you chemical free clean food options. We don't classify ourselves as "treatment free" because we do to try to help the bees be as successful as they possibly can. For those of you who follow us, you have likely heard that using these sustainable practices we’ve seen some tough times but it has certainly paid off!
Location. Location. Location. Can you keep bees in town? Absolutely! Check your local city ordinances first, but in Tulsa you can absolutely do this! We have two apiaries, one right here in the heart of Tulsa Hills at our 5 acre farm and a second apiary SE of Tulsa, near a small community called Hitchita, at the west end of Lake Eufaula. We plant bee friendly crops in both locations to ensure that our bees have plenty of options to make a great quality honey for you to enjoy. With completely different flavors, pick the one that is just right for you.
Throughout the month we will continue to post information about honey, honeybees and beekeeping to give you an inside look at this sweet delicacy!