My regular readers know that I’m kind of obsessed with raw honey. OBSESSED! Honeycomb, pollen, propolis, beeswax, all of it.. I’m on it like.. uh, well, I guess like bees on a honeycomb. (That sounded cooler in my head.)
In my ever evolving knowledge of bees and the art and science of apiculture, I have come to expect three things from my honey: 1) That it is produced naturally and ethically; 2) That it is raw and unfiltered; and 3) That it is local and preferably from a family that I would feel confident supporting and promoting.
SO! Meet the Hess Family, owners and operators of Kingsburg Honey in Kingsburg, California! I discovered this company after trolling my criteria for honey on the good ol’ interwebs, and then I reached out to the Hess family asking for a chance to get a closer look at their all natural, organically raised local honey.
Daren Hess and his 11 year old son Dmitry were awesome enough to take Jonathan and myself out to a family owned organic farm where they keep their bees (many of them “rescued” from exterminators after making their home in the side of a barn or chimney, or swarming onto a tree in a residential neighborhood). When not on the organic farm, the bees forage among wildflowers along the Kings River.
I mentioned earlier this year that I am fascinated with bees (mostly because I’ve never been stung by one) and I have been flirting with the concept of beekeeping on my little urban homestead in the city. For all of my love of this age old art, I have never, EVER, been close to bees making honey before. It’s actually been high up on my bucket list to handle bees in a beehive – right up there with “pet a penguin” and “find a dinosaur bone”. (I shoot for the stars, I tells ya.)
So visiting these hives was kind of awesome for me. When Daren asked if we’d like to handle the bees and get up close, it took every ounce of my self control to not squeal like a little girl. Would I like to play with honey bees?! Heck to the yes!!
Every step of our visit to the beehives was, well, kind of awesome in the face! We hadn’t even cracked open a hive yet and I was already going giddy with excitement when Daren and Dmitry started lighting the beehive smoker. Oh! And I always thought the smoker was to get the bees all disoriented or something. (Which makes no sense. If I were disoriented and someone was taking my honey I would be stinging the crap out of them.) So I learned that the smoke is to distract the bees – they think there’s a fire and then start collecting the honey. The more you know.
Dmitry was awesome and handled the bees like a boss. His dad Daren is hoping he’ll consider carrying on the family tradition of beekeeping and if he does, he’ll be the fifth generation in his family to tackle this cool hobby and valued art. While I was stuttering over how to correctly pronounce “propolis”, Dmitry was pointing out queen bees, drone bees and casually dropping abstract bee knowledge all over the place.
The Hess Family is quite serious about raising bees in a natural and ethical manner, which is beyond important here in the Central Valley of California, where orchard, crops and farms are all dependent on healthy bee populations. Daren and Dmitry recently returned from an Organic Beekeepers conference in Arizona, where they studied methods of natural, organic beekeeping – keeping current on their craft is important to this family, which is extremely impressive to me.
So guess what!? Jonathan and I got to handle bees!!! How cool is THAT?! And you know my flirting with the concept of beekeeping? After playing with these beauties, now Jonathan is on board with my lofty urban beekeeping plans. (Mwahahaha, I WIN!)
So Jonathan and I had an absolute blast with this fun hands on experience with bees, and now we are SERIOUSLY considering raising our own bees for local homegrown honey.. but in the meantime, we’re more than excited to purchase the organically raised, all natural Kingsburg Honey from the Hess family!
A BIG thank you to Daren and Dmitry for such a fun and educational outing to your organic bee hives!