In the winter of 2016, I was invited to visit Hunter’s honey farm in Martinsville, Indiana. Back then I was writing a series of articles for a Kannada magazine regarding American agriculture. Sustainable farming was one of my favorite topics to learn and adopt. I was curious how a family-owned honey farm nowhere in the middle of the jungle can sustain it over a long period of time. Hunter’s own a bee’s kingdom for over 100 years.
I reached the farm on a chilling winter morning at 5.45 am. The owner was waiting for me to arrive so that he can start moving the honey hives.
He was moving all the honey hives to an organic farm nearby. Their honey farm was getting ready for a fall bee fair. He was concerned that bees get disturbed by the unexpected crowd that arrives at the fair. I had a very interesting conversation with him regarding honey farming and the impact of modern agriculture on bee farming.
A conversation with a Honey Farmer
Me: How do you think honey farming is a way of sustainable farming?
Hunter’s: Organic beekeeping is a way of sustainable honey farming. We keep honey hives around our house. The natural forest around offers them fresh and pure nectar. They mainly depend on the wilderness. However, dependency on wilderness in Indiana is purely seasonal as we get a lot of snow.
We in our honey farm not only produce honey but also make and sell different products like Candies, juice, moisturizing creams, soap, lip balm from the honey, and the honey wax we extract. You will see those products in our shop. These alternate products help us run the business along with honey.
Me: What other options you choose for a nectar to produce organic honey?
Hunter’s: Usually farmers do honey farming as alternative farming along with growing main agricultural products. Farming in most parts of the USA is commercialized and small-scale farmers have to rely on such alternatives too. I am mainly driving now to keep honey hives on an organic farm because a friend of mine who owns this land never uses any chemicals. She uses heirloom seeds and avoids any GMO. She also does not use any chemical fertilizers on land and spray any pesticides. That makes it easy for bees to get organic nectar and produce organic honey.
Me: Why do you think honey farming is important?
Hunter’s: Ah, There are several aspects to it.
- Health: Honey is a healthy alternative for sugar. It has many medicinal values, which makes it way more special among all the sweets. This is one such healthy natural sweetener.
- Agriculture: Bees act as crop pollinators which increases productivity. Many crops we grow are dependent on bees for pollination and reproduction. To grow the quality and quality of food, bees are really important mediators.
- Bees: Because of global warming and pesticide usage in agriculture, the bee count is impacting more than what we thought. Although we can’t keep all species of bees for honey farming. It is important to save bees to have a balance in the environment. Be it agriculture or wilderness, bees have an important duty to do as one of the crucial pollinators.
Me: I would like to know about the bee’s world. Could you explain to me how they live and reproduce?
Hunter’s: Bee’s world is a really interesting one. They are very hard workers. They allocate their duties according to their roles. There will be only one queen bee in the entire hive. Once you see the size of a queen bee, you can recognize she is the queen of a hive. She is usually longer than all other bees. You may also see many worker bees surrounding her on continuous service.
All these worker bees are females, they act as a servant to the queen. There are hundreds of male bees, their sole purpose is to mate with the queen and the queen will only lay eggs. They all live in colonies. They build beautiful hexagonal honeycomb to lay eggs and store honey. Their architecture is way more calculative and mathematical. They have separate sections for worker bees and male drone bees.
These worker bees act as pollinators. They carry pollen and store it in the wax to produce honey. As a honey farmer, we should not suppose to extract all the honey which eventually end up making bees starving. Hence we usually keep honey to save them for winters and extract the excess honey.
Me: Are these worker bees dedicated to one queen?
Hunter’s: Yes, they are very loyal to the queen, and that’s how they make the colony alive and keep going.
Honey farm tour
Later Hunter’s took me on a tour and showed me the entire process to extract honey. They opened a hive and demonstrated the construction of colonies and how bees are working together to produce honey.
Hunter’s honey farm sustained for over 100 years by producing organic honey. They conduct fall festivals to demonstrate and sell their products. They give a lot of recipes made with honey which is healthy and tasty. They sell more than 10 different honey made up of different wildflowers and produced in different seasons.
They conduct tours and show interesting facts about beekeeping. Their farm & shop in Martinsville Indiana is the right place for a day visit from Indianapolis and offers a lot of bee products.