This is Berkshire Hills Honeybee Farm‘s co-owner and beekeeper Vinnie at last Thursday’s Hancock Street Market. Berkshire Hills has only been with us at Ithaca Farmers Market for a couple of years, but they have been in business since 1874, which certainly makes them one of the oldest businesses at market! They bring a delightful variety of honey and other bee products to the Wednesday market at East Hill Plaza and Thursday market at Hancock Street.
For Vinnie and her husband Bob, who is a fifth generation beekeeper, working with bees is a family tradition, and their knowledge continues to be passed down through the ages. Their 14 year old grandson Ivan has been working with bees for a few years already, and sometimes helps at market, as does his 5 year old sister Haven, who was at market with her grandmother last week.
The incredible diversity in colors, flavors, and textures of honey is a result of the constantly changing nectar sources from which the bees feed throughout the season. Bob and Vinnie do not grow a large monoculture of one crop, but allow their bees to enjoy nature’s buffet of Japanese knotweed, goldenrod, sunflowers, hollyhocks, clover, apple blossoms, and whatever else might be in bloom. They have over a hundred hives, and keep them in a few different yards, providing maximum foraging opportunities for the happy bees.
Creamed honey (the one in the top center) is a thick, creamy type of honey which takes advantage of honey’s natural tendency to crystallize when the conditions are right. After extracting honey from their hives, Vinnie and Bob find a batch that is already forming crystals of a desired consistency, and mix it with honey of another consistency, and through a magical process involving time and temperature (and lots of mixing), creamed honey is formed. If you want a more scientific explanation than I have been able to provide, you should probably ask the folks at Berkshire Hills to explain it to you. Or better yet, get a jar of their special creamed honey to take home! Vinnie reports that a creamed honey and peanut butter sandwich is Haven’s favorite, and she is a real expert on these matters.
To see photos of Vinnie and Bob and their family catching swarms, which is a pretty awesome thing to see, you can check out the Berkshire Hills Honey Bee Farm Facebook page. They also have all of their products listed in greater detail on their website.
The best way to learn more about Berkshire Hills Honey Bee Farm is to visit them at East Hill Market on Wednesday from 4-7 or at the Hancock Street Market on Thursday from 4-7. They are one of the many excellent reasons to shop at the weekday markets!