By Sarah Meyer of Worker’s Ransom Honey
I love to travel and when I get a chance to I always bring back a few key things that represent the place that I visited–music, coffee, tea, and of course, honey. I feel as though when I enjoy these local items on my return, I am re-experiencing the place in its entirety. When you consume honey, you are tasting the blossoms of the season and the place in which it was made. When you taste Worker’s Ransom honey, you are tasting the Finger Lakes!
If you are a wine connoisseur, as many of us are in the Finger Lakes, you may be familiar with the French word terroir, meaning “of the earth.” I sometimes relate this term to honey, since, as with grapes to wine, the conditions in which the honey is made and produced give the honey its unique characteristics. One of the most amazing things about honeybees is that their honey carries the essence of the flowers from which they forage. For example, if the bees predominantly visit blueberry blossoms in spring, the honey will carry hints of the blueberry flavor and aroma, making it a varietal, or sometimes referred to as a monofloral or unifloral honey. The blueberry nectar will also affect the honey’s color, texture, sweetness and how quickly the honey may crystalize. Knowing that this natural system exists, beekeepers can manage their hives based on what is in bloom, paired with other factors such as hive location, weather, and season.
It is somewhat common to find Finger Lakes varietal honey, such as alfalfa, white clover, basswood, black locust, various berries, and wildflower. Its management approach to beekeeping has a level of intensity and attention because the beekeeper decides to manage their hives based on what flowers are blooming within proximity of their hives. The uppermost shallow, wooden boxes of a hive, also known as honey supers, contain primarily honey, rather than brood, pollen, and honey like the lower deeper boxes. Honey supers are added atop hives just prior to bloom time and removed just after the blossoms expire.
Knowing that the bees likely foraged those blossoms during that peak bloom period, the beekeeper presumes that most of the honey produced within the honey supers will be honey made from nectar of those blossoms.The beekeeper will typically remove all of their honey supers, packed with the varietal honey, from all of their hives and combine it as they extract the honey, and then bottle it for sale.
Worker’s Ransom honey is not varietal honey, but rather single-hive honey. A bit different from varietal, the honey within each of my honey supers is still a sweet snapshot of what the bees were foraging at the time it was produced, but the resulting honey is made from the nectar of a greater diversity of seasonal plants within miles of the hive at the time the bees foraged. The most significant management decision I make to uphold the terroir is that I never mix honey harvested from different hives or honey from different honey supers taken from the same hive. Each bottle of Worker’s Ransom honey is from a single honey super atop a single hive.
In order to bottle my single-hive, single-super honey, a lot more time and attention is required in the steps taken to keep track of my hives, to harvest the honey, and to extract and bottle it, but I do all this to maintain the integrity of the hyper-local, hyper-seasonal honey. Between each honey super I extract, I clean all of my equipment and transition to all new sieves, buckets, bottles, and most importantly labels. I keep a record of each honey super box as to when it was removed from its hive, extracted, and bottled.
When a customer enjoys a bottle of Worker’s Ransom honey, the honey within their bottle will very likely taste, smell, look and feel different than any other bottle of honey produced because their bottle is a one-of-a-kind, brief record of what the bees of that hive were foraging in that location, and at that time of season.
Over the years, I have kept hives in Geneva, Phelps, Stanley, and Waterloo thanks to my strong community of supportive farmers and land-owning friends willing to host my bees in exchange for pollination. Due to hive losses and evaluation of my honey business efficiencies, each year my hive locations seem to shift and change but always remain within a few miles of Geneva.
Regardless of where my hives are kept, I maintain my practice of producing single-hive, single-box honey with the hope that anyone that tastes Worker’s Ransom honey will re-experience the Finger Lakes over and over, no matter what distance they travel.
Sarah A. Meyer is the beekeeper and owner of Worker’s Ransom Honey based in Geneva, New York. She set up her first hive in 2014 and now sells local honey from bees pollinating the Finger Lakes region. You can learn more about Worker’s Ransom Honey by reading about Sarah’s beekeeping adventures shared in her monthly From the Hive column for Edible Finger Lakes and following Worker’s Ransom on social media @workersransom on Facebook and @workersransomhoney on Instagram. You can find Worker’s Ransom products at five retail locations in the Geneva area and a few of them offer online ordering and gift baskets. These include the Finger Lakes Welcome Center in Geneva, Bonstrom Farms in Stanley, Monaco’s Coffee in Geneva, FLX Goods in Geneva, and Red Jacket Orchards Farmstore in Geneva.
To contact Sarah, email firstname.lastname@example.org.