There’s a unique buzz around JoSan Farm. The farm is home to about five bee hives (with about 40,000 bees per hive!). A bit unexpected since JoSan is a working dairy farm, that’s pedigree-minded, with about 50 milking cows. The honey bees have only sweetened farm life for the third and fourth generation dairy farmers.
“The HONEY! It’s the best part of working with honeybees,” says dairy farmer Owen Bewley. For the last five years, Owen and Cathy Bewley, and their children, Emory and Gavin, have dabbled in beekeeping. “We used Gavin’s 4-H project as the official start of G.E.zzz Bees Honey,” said Owen.
The interest in beekeeping traces back to Owen’s family in Ireland. The family always tended bees for additional income. Owen wanted to try his hand at beekeeping. The venture has been successful, says Owen, “We harvest between 175 to 250 pounds of honey.”
Fact: Honey is the only food that does not spoil.
The spring/midsummer harvest, the Bewleys call the “wild flower” honey. Cathy says it’s sweet and light in color. The golden rod honey, harvested in the fall, is a darker honey with a more earthy flavor.
What started out as a “hobby” has grown into multiple hives, with the dairy farm’s vegetable garden, fruit trees and flower gardens benefitting the most from bees.
Fact: Bees are responsible for every three to four bites of food we eat.
Because the farm is on top of a “mountain”, as Cathy calls it, the farm doesn’t grow pollinating crops. “We grow mostly grass hay baleage and dry hay,” says Owen. They are some of the ingredients typically found in cows’ feed. Farmers rely on professional animal nutritionists to make sure their cows receive a balanced and nutritious diet with just the right mix of grains like corn, wheat and barley and alfalfa hay.
While alfalfa hay does not require insect pollination, it is grown from seed that is entirely dependent on pollination by honey bees and other insects, according to the National Honey Board.
For JoSan Farms, which doesn’t grow alfalfa, Owen says the bees “provide no defined benefit to the farm’s dairy business.” But the farmers do enjoy the benefit of harvested honey!
“We love making smoothies with milk, honey and a summer fruit,” says Owen.