GEORGETOWN — Honey jarred by members of the Brown County Beekeeper’s Association was judged in the Brown County Fair, with member Tom House taking home three first place awards in addition to Best in Show.
House won first place for his honey comb, his dark colored extracted honey, and for his chunk honey, which is the honey comb in a jar of honey. He won Best in Show for his chunk honey.
The Brown County Beekeeper’s Association has a booth set up at the fair and are showcasing the winning honey selections, as well as encouraging membership into the association and selling their homemade honey.
“There’s been a decline in the honey bee, but there’s been a resurgence of beekeeping and interest in beekeeping,” former Beekeeper’s Association president Mike McHenry said. “We have more than 50 members in Brown County, and the majority of them are new beekeepers. It’s cool. I think there’s a push in society in general to go back to the natural ways (of living) and simplifying things. And I think people are interested in the medicinal values of honey.”
While most people live in fear of bees, honey bees are actually an integral member of our ecosystem. Honey bees are essential for many farmers to help spread their crops’ and flower’s pollen, and they provide honey and wax to those who can retrieve it.
According to a piece in the New York Times by Harlan County, Ky. bee expert Tammy Horn, bees, which have been around as a species for 130 million years, migrated to North America along with many Europeans that were fleeing religious persecution, poverty, or war.
Along with the bees, many of the new American immigrants brought with them beekeeping skills that have been honed and passed down from generation to generation.
Today, the modern beekeeper uses a portable bee hive that keeps the bees protected while also providing the beekeeper with an easy method of extracting honey.
“Inside these boxes we have what we call frames,” McHenry said. “We put in a wax foundation, and then the bees will naturally draw out that comb from that foundation. By using these frames, and you can do it in an organized way, you use an extractor, and the centrifugal forces extracts the honey out from the sides, it drops to the bottom, you filter it and then bottle it. It’s very simple.”
McHenry said that his association’s fair booth always sells out of honey, and he believes people see the value in raw honey, as opposed to commercially made clover honey.
“Most people want what they call raw honey, because raw honey still has the little bits of protein that bees put in it,” McHenry said, noting that the bees make the honey for their larva.
The Brown County Beekeeper’s Association is auctioning off a beekeeper’s starter kit retailed at more than $167, and he said that the time commitment taking care of the hives isn’t too big.
“It depends on how aggressive you want to be,” McHenry said. “If you just have two hives, there’s a little bit of work in the spring and in the fall, getting them ready for winter, but there’s guys in our club who have 80 hives, and it’s a full time job. We have ten hives (my wife) Tracy and I, and we spend, maybe in the spring and summer a couple of Saturday’s per month working on them. It’s not a huge time commitment.
“A lot of the costs are on the front end. Once you buy your equipment, there’s not a whole lot of cost. And there’s a big demand for local honey. For the small time guys, you can make a little money back, which is nice.”