I am a beekeeper, but the truth is that beekeeping did not come naturally. When someone gifted me with a hive about seven years ago, I spent the first year being terrified every time I opened it. Honey bees pick up very quickly on a beekeeper's fear, so I knew I had to get over it.
When I started talking to my bees, I started to relax. Then I started to listen. They were talking back through their buzzing. Over the course of many conversations, my bees wrapped their tiny legs around my heart. Today I talk to them every chance I get.
Being a beekeeper brings you into direct contact with Nature. You start looking at the world like a bee, seeing flowering plants and insects like you've never seen them before. The weather becomes super important. You know just by looking at the sky if it's a good day to fly.
Beekeeping has also brought me closer to the land. I maintain about 50 hives, so I need good agricultural landscapes for my bees. The five farms around Champaign-Urbana where most of my bees reside are organic or natural farms far from conventional corn fields and deadly pesticides. Like me, the farmers on these farms take pleasure in observing their bustling little charges at work among the flowers.
My company is called Second Nature Honey and until this year, gourmet infused honey has been my main product. Chocolate honey is my most popular flavor, followed by honey infused with chamomile or hibiscus flowers.
This year I will be partnering with Curtis Orchards and Pumpkin Patch to implement a USDA grant to capture varietal honeys. Don't be surprised if you see some new natural flavors from Second Nature Honey on the shelves of Common Ground.
Common Ground Food Co-op has been a great commercial partner. The staff is supportive and interested, the customers are wonderful, and the other venders are a great bunch to work with. All of us understand how a robust, resilient food chain can improve a community's health.
The tradition of monoculture in Illinois presents many challenges to keeping bees, including deadly pesticides and dwindling forage areas. However, the sustainable, local agriculture movement also has strong roots here. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be part of it.