Find it Local Friday: Honey

Last month I was threw a baby shower for some close friends and their new arrival. Wanting to have some locavore flair to it, I chose a honeybee theme. Yellow and black ribbons everywhere and these cute favors I made with local honey sticks from Wolf Honey Farm in Baldwin, Wisconsin. The thank you favors each said “Honey and Babies are Two of Life’s Sweetest Things.” Wolf Honey was one of the first local products we started buying when we began our locavore journey 2 years ago. They sell honey and other bee products year-round at the St. Paul Farmers’ Market.

Since the shower and the leftover favors we had, I’ve experimented with adding honey in our meals. Ice cream, cookies, spaghetti sauce, fish, my morning green tea. Whatever needs an extra touch of sweet. I’ve also been reading “The Beekeeper’s Lament” by Hannah Nordhaus, an alarming look at the state of honeybees in the US. If you are looking for a quick and informative read, add this to your summer beach bag and prepare to be blown away by how important these little guys are to our agricultural system.

Minnesota and Wisconsin typically rank in the top 10 for honey production states (Minnesota is currently 6th). We are also the early summer home to many of the migratory colonies that are transported around the country for pollination. They are packed up for the almond, citrus, and vegetable seasons in Florida and California and then brought back to the Upper Midwest for alfalfa and prairie wildflowers. How’s that for a local life?

This month two new pieces of information were published about honey production in Minnesota and around the region. The 2011 USDA Honey Statistics report indicated that nationally, honey production was down 16%. In Minnesota production was down 25% from the previous year. Although Minnesota produced a whopping 6.4 million pounds of honey last year, the price has increased nationwide due to increasing demand and decreasing supply. Our bees are in trouble and honey prices are starting to show it.

The second report released added more controversy to the growing debate about the failing bee populations in the United States. The latest research indicated that colony collapse disorder may be related to the use of common pesticides in the neonicotinoids.  The findings were met with immediate pushback from inside and outside the ag industry, only adding to the confusion about what’s really causing dramatic decreases (up to 30% of colonies in some recent years). I’m only just learning about the unique nature and science of beekeeping so I won’t claim to know what the past and future holds for Minnesota bees.

What I do know is that purchasing local honey instead of large national or store brands plays an important part. With a strong local market for their product, Minnesota beekeepers have more resources to maintain and support healthy hives. They can better weather the financial ups and downs that come with maintaining apiaries in distress. Most important, healthy bees means healthy crops all summer long. We locavores love our veggies and can’t have them without a pollinator.  Stop and think for a few minutes today: Just how different would the garden world look without the honeybee?

Minnesota Honey Hot Spots

More than 50 honey producers are listed in the Minnesota Grown guide. Here are 5 located within a few miles of the Twin Cities as well as a unique opportunity if you’re interested in a more regular delivery!

Bare Honey in St. Paul, MN

The Elm Tree Farm in Afton, MN

Ames Farm in Delano, MN

Honey-Pine Apiary in Stillwater, MN

Whistling Well Farm in Hastings, MN

The Beez Kneez is a Minneapolis based business that specializes in honey deliveries by bicycle. Yup. You read that right. Bees by Bike. Order light or dark honey from Bar Bell Bee Ranch in Squaw Lake, MN online and then owner, beekeeper and bicyclist Kristy Lynn Allen pedals it all the way to your door. How cool is that?!? Her company also works with many Metro community gardens to provide community hives in a program called Community Bees on Bikes.

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