Whether enjoyed in hot tea, on a peanut butter sandwich or in the form of a scented candle, honey makes life a little sweeter.
For Tracy and Christina Hunter, honey is a way of life. Though they both have full-time jobs as teachers, they also carry on a 100-year legacy of beekeeping at Hunter’s Honey Farm, their fourth-generation honey farm in Indiana. (Read about more Indiana farms here.)
Lessons From the Hive
Tracy Hunter, a high school science teacher, learned the art of beekeeping and honey harvesting from his grandfather, Gilbert Perigo, who was also a teacher. Perigo began his honey farm in 1910 by managing several hives on behalf of his father’s orchard and eventually built his apiary – or bee yard – to more than 800 hives. Perigo passed along his love for beekeeping and teaching to both his daughter and grandson. Today, Tracy and Christina continue the family tradition with their children.
“People really enjoy that they can come to a local honey farm, meet the beekeeper, purchase local honey and tour our honey house,” Tracy Hunter says. “They are just amazed at how many different items are produced on our farm from the honey, to bee pollen, propolis and royal jelly.”
The Buzz on Bees
There are 300 known varieties of honey. Based on the crops the honeybees pollinate, honey varieties range from white in color and mild in flavor to dark and strong. Hunters’ bees provide contracted pollination services throughout the state for everything from melons in southern Indiana to orchards in central Indiana to blueberries in the north. The bees’ cross-state journeys result in six to eight varieties of honey.
During a high production year, the farm produces 13,200 pounds of honey. Considering that one worker honeybee produces one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime, that is a lot of bees.
Honey for Your Health
“It is important to remember that honey is not just for bread and butter,” Tracy Hunter says. “There are many uses for honey and bee products from nutrition to immune system assistance to antibacterial treatments for wounds.”
Bee pollen, known to relieve allergies and boost energy, is considered to be the most nutritious food on the planet. Each member of the Hunter family takes bee pollen every day.
Other bee products also have health benefits. Royal jelly, the substance that feeds the queen throughout her lifetime, contains many properties that assist with the immune system. Propolis, a wax like compound collected by bees from the resins of various trees and flower buds, is known for its antibacterial benefits in wound treatment.
The Hunters note that honey, the only food that never spoils, isn’t just a sweetener but is good for you, too. Their website shares tips on how to easily substitute honey for sugar in cooking and baking.