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honey

Bees and Such Podcast Episode #1

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Bees and Such Podcast Episode #1

I have wanted to start a podcast aimed at people doing similar things in beekeeping to our own plans. I finally got my first interview done and am going to post it here.

Our first interview is with Les Crowder. We talked about top bar hives and transitioning from Langstroth hives to top bar hives and a few other topics such as his work in Jamaica.

I will admit that this is a rough recording. Les was actually traveling to LA to catch a flight to Jamaica and stopped on the side of the road to have the interview. I really appreciate him taking the time to do that.

If there seems to be an audience and interest for this podcast I am willing to invest in some better sound equipment and the time to do some post processing and clean up the episodes more. I have several more interviews lined up in the next couple of weeks that I am excited about. If you are a beekeeper trying to, or already running a sideline or small scale commercial operation and want to be interviewed send me an email at jenningsapiaries@gmail.com

If there are any questions, feedback or suggestions please feel free to let me know :)

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Louisiana Honey Plants

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Louisiana Honey Plants

I went to the state beekeeping convention in 2013 and bought a booklet published by the LSU Ag Center. It contains pictures and descriptions of nectar and pollen producing plants that are native and grow well in Louisiana. 

Bees do not need only nectar producing flowers, they also need pollen. Nectar, which is converted to honey, provides the bees with a carbohydrate; while pollen, which is converted to bee bread, provides a protein source. Just like people, bees look for diversity in their food to provide a balanced diet.

Often people, including myself, don't realize how important trees are to bees. Now that I keep bees I use trees as a guide for what the bees have accessible to them early in the year. Trees provide a lot of forage to honey bees as well as other pollinators.

Grab a copy of Louisiana Honey Plants by Dale Pollet, Ph. D. to get more information and even a handy chart of bloom times. The below images were taken from LSU Ag Center's powerpoint presentation on Spring Honey Plants.



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All honey isn't the same

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All honey isn't the same

I don't think I had ever had real, raw honey before I started keeping my own bees. It was not something we ate in my house growing up or something that I had ever been exposed to as an adult. I didn't understand why honey was better than sugar or what made it so special.

Today I met with a business owner to discuss them using my honey in their products. It is a conversation I have had with a few other local businesses already and the other businesses had quickly signed up for purchasing honey from us. I didn't have to sell or explain anything, they knew from their own experience that it was a great product and valued that it was locally produced. They understood that as a small beekeeper producing locally made honey, it would be at a premium price. I am aware that my honey is more costly than other honey that can be purchased but i stand behind my product. I just assumed that people understood why it costs more. 

The business owner I spoke with today did not understand, however. He was already purchasing bulk honey from a large regional distributor and was paying what he thought was a high price. The price he was paying was half of the best price I could offer him for our honey. Understandably he did not want to double his cost to buy our honey. I was completely fine with that, as a small business owner I have become very aware of the need to keep costs down. What I was not ok with his approach to questioning why my honey would cost so much more than a larger provider's. He was telling me that honey is honey and that it was all the same.

I realized at that moment that for some people honey is just honey. They don't see that there are quality differences that justify price differences and that I cannot produce honey for free. There are a lot of expenses that go into the production, harvesting, extraction, filtering, bottling and distributing of honey. I won't go into detail about that entire process in this post. What I will say is what I told this business owner, my honey is from treatment free hives and I happily take people to see where it is produced. I do not have the buying power to purchase honey from smaller beekeepers, like myself, in huge quantities that would allow me to drive the price down below current market value. I can guarantee that my my honey has only been minimally processed and that is the highest quality available. When you buy my honey, you're not just buying any old honey; you are buying the best honey available in this area and I stand behind that statement and my products 100%.

Before I go further I want to be clear that I do not think the larger beekeepers and honey distributers in my region are bad business owners or people. I don't even think that they have bad business models. They are just working on a different philosophy than I am. They are producing and buying honey to be sold  in large quantities. And by selling such large quantities of honey they can drop their prices and standards to generate a profit. I am all for businesses being successful and making money. I want to be a successful business owner and make a profit. My philosophy on how to do that is just different. I am competing on the quality of my product and not on quantity sold.

My philosophy of beekeeping is not the conventional way and I will go more in depth on that in a later post. Honey is more than just sweet, it is a unique substance produced from the nectar of plants in the area in which the bees live. Each area has its own special qualities and can produce varying flavors, depths and aromas. Honey is an amazing substance that if treated properly will practically never spoil. At the same time it is delicate. Heating it much above ambient temperatures can alter the nutritional qualities that honey has over other sweeteners. All honey is not created equally and honey that is purchased in a store or from a large supplier can be treated in ways that diminish its value as more than just a sugary syrup.

Here are a few facts about the production of honey that may help people understand its seemingly high costs.

  • Honey is not harvested all year. It is only produced in the late Spring, Summer and possibly early Autumn.
  • The process of getting honey from hive to bottle is not a simple one and requires equipment, labor and time. 
  • Bees must be manipulated and coerced into creating huge excess supplies of honey.
  • Bees actually use honey themselves and do not just produce it for people to take.
  • One bee makes about a  1/4 teaspoon of honey in her entire life.
  • It takes 2 million flower visits and about 50,000 miles of flying to make one pound of honey.
  • Most honey consumed in the US is actually imported from other countries where they can produce the honey for far cheaper than domestic beekeepers.

I spend the extra money to shop locally. I'll gladly pay more for products and services provided by local businesses because I can develop an ongoing relationship with these people. Ruston is a great community for local businesses and I am so grateful for the support we have received. So yes, my honey is more expensive, but if you try it and aren't satisfied please call or email me directly and we can discuss your concerns and I'll do whatever I can to make it right. Value is subjective and I know some people will always try to buy the cheapest honey or any other product possible. For those people that place a high value on honey, ours is simply the best that can be bought around here. Thanks again to everyone for the continued support and please support the businesses in our town and area that help each other.

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