I first became aware of raw honey and beekeeping in 2009. You can read that whole story here.
In 2012 I was living and working in India, where street vendors sell hunks of raw, wild honey out of big jars by the kilo. It was amazing to see how the rest of the world buys, sells, and uses honey.
Most Americans MAYBE use a bit of filtered honey in their tea, or in baking. Most of the other uses of raw honey (sore throat, burns, immunity, anti-allergy, etc.) are completely unknown to average consumer.
In 2013 I decided to jump into beekeeping by taking the online course through Penn State’s USDA Agriculture Extension program. It has a video/slideshow module system that simply and effectively gives you the insight into bee world, the hows and whys of honey production. It’s the latest research and hive management techniques taught in an interactive environment by the masters of the art and trade of beecraft.
Then I joined the Central Jersey Beekeepers Association, working with them in the Monmouth County Agricultural Fair, where I gave live demonstrations over 3 days to passersby, fielding questions about honey and its makers.
I learned two things from that experience.
- People are naturally intrigued by honey bees and honey.
- There is A LOT of misinformation about the benefits of honey and Colony Collapse Disorder.
What this tells me is that we have more to do in the way of educating the public about our product.
Most of the beekeepers I’ve met are either backyard enthusiasts with 1 or 2 hives or 4th-generation pollinators managing hundreds of hives across New Jersey, for whom honey is a by-product of their service rather than the focus or main product line.
These guys are great. Real farmers. Working the land. Keeping the crops of New Jersey’s breadbasket producing. Cranberries, strawberries, apples, and blueberries are just a few of our staple crops in the region that rely on honeybees and similar pollinators.
The challenge these farmers face is the dwindling capacity to compete in what is now a global market for honey and honeybee products.
Sure, there are a handful of guys having some successes in selling their honey. But most of the beekeepers end up selling their honey at bulk rates or packaged in one-pound jars at farmer’s markets at a bargain for what they could get if they built a brand and some added value to their products- innovative packaging, holistic/homeopathic kits, raw and cut comb honey, for example.
I had these guys, 40 years and 4 generations in the business, asking me, the greenhorn, what the big deal is with raw and cut comb honey.
“Why would anyone want pollen, beeswax and propolis in their honey?” “How would they use it?” “Why do people keep asking about raw honey and allergies?”
And therein lies the challenge and the opportunity. The old-timers have the knowledge to keep bees alive long enough to drag them around the state and cross-country to pollinate everyone’s crops and take the excess honey as a by-product. That stress of constant moving and monoculture pollen sources is a contributing factor to Colony Collapse Disorder. What conventional beekeepers don’t have is the insight to how people in the New Age of naturopathy, sustainable farming and organics, are using honey on a daily basis. Most don’t have the tools, knowledge, and resources to brand, market, package and sell their honey in global and online markets.
Honey is one of a few substances the World Health Organization prescribes for sore throats. Because of it’s low moisture content (the bees cap honey at about 18% moisture) it is hard for bacteria and mold to form on it. And one of the by-products of the honey ripening process is a minuscule amount of hydrogen peroxide which kills many bacteria, effectively making honey insusceptible to spoilage if properly stored. Archaeologists in Egypt have found 4000 year old honey in tombs, still intact and consumable, albeit dusty.
So what we’re doing at Chasing Honey Farm is raising honeybees naturally– without chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, or miticides. We let them develop natural immunity to the few diseases that affect honeybees. We use hive management techniques that rely on emboldening successive generations of bees rather than chemically inducing a false-immunity, and thereby a reliance on external inputs of truly nasty, toxic chemicals that conventional beekeepers use all the time.
Will there be challenges in achieving our goal of super-premium raw and cut-comb honey products- YES. Can we overcome those challenges and learn in the process- DOUBLE YES! We’re doing something completely different here. This is a novel way to make and sell honey to the world. And you can be a part of the process. You own a share in the proceeds of a hive- and we manage the hive for you. You take the honey or the money we get from selling your honey. It’s your choice.
My name is Chase. And I’m YOUR Head Beekeeper.