Ojai Valley Guide Summer 2020

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go down that path you lose all control over the quality of your honey. Sometimes that honey is not even all honey.” Also, “we only procure our honey from beekeepers who agree to keep their honeys separated by location of production for us.” Because Haskins knows all her beekeepers personally, she knows where nearly every drop of honey is produced. She explains, “knowing what grows in those particular areas is helpful in choosing honey made with favorable floral sources so we know how the honey will taste, etc.” For instance, the buckwheat honey comes from California wild buckwheat growing in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest. This plant is different from the cultivated buckwheat plants grown for buckwheat flour and grain.

Bob Mearns and Barbara Haskins tend their hives in Placerita Canyon.

The result is a buckwheat honey with a wonderfully smooth, “round” flavor with no sharp edges. The alfalfa honey comes from the Antelope Valley and Inland Empire Valley where there are many alfalfa hay farms. This honey is very similar to the buckwheat honey – with just a bit more caramel flavors. And the wild blackberry honey comes from blackberry brambles growing wild in the Salem area of Oregon – this honey is considered “truly unique” because it tastes just like blackberries. “While selling honey you make yourself as a beekeeper is wonderful, there is something to be said for those who source honey and sell it as we do, because, simply put, the honey you may make as a beekeeper might not be the best,” Haskins said. The main reason the honey you made might not be the best is because of the floral

source, she continued. For example, if your bees are in an area foraging for wildflower honey, but that bee location is near an avocado orchard, the bees might bring in avocado blossom nectar along with the usually more delicate wildflower nectar. “Nectar from avocado blossoms is pungent and strong and will change the overall character of the wildflower honey, in the opinion of most, not for the best,” Haskins continued. Conversely, if bees are set on wildflowers in another area the nectar will taste different (usually better) without the influence of the avocado blossom. “This honey is preferable for bottling for the fact that it’s color will be a nice midrange honey color and the flavor is midrange as well, not too strong and not too light.” Haskins emphasized that she and her husband are “not in the business of volume – we are in the business of quality.” There is nothing quite like honey straight from the hive, and “we try to bring you just that.”

beekeepers the same price they pay for foreign honey – that price doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of the U.S. honey production,” Haskins said. “It’s heartbreaking because it’s not enough money for [U.S. beekeepers] to pay for the expense of making the honey.” Beekeeping is becoming very expensive with the cost of fuel and labor and other factors, she said, “and the profit goes down, so it’s becoming hard to be a beekeeper these days. There are many beekeepers that are generational wondering if they can continue on.” “The reason this is such a problem is that if we allow our beekeepers to go out of business, we lose the people who are keeping our bees, our crop pollinators, alive.” While many people have heard the initiative, “Save the bees,” she believes “we need to start a new initiative: save the beekeepers.”

“We pour the honey one drum at a time, by hand – this is completely inefficient but it allows us the ultimate control over what is going in the jar,” Haskins said.

“The best way to do that is to demand the honey you purchase is produced by U.S. beekeepers,” Haskins said. “The way to do that is to buy honey from companies such as ours.”

“From the day we start gently warming the honey – making every effort to maintain its nutritional integrity and delicate flavor – to move it from the drum to pour takes seven to 10 days,” Haskins explained. “This completely inefficient method results in the highest quality, best tasting, best looking honey you can buy.”

From the time her father passed away, Haskins said she knew he would always be with her, and can’t help but notice the moments when he was “guiding the ship.” One such moment was the first day the tasting room opened for business when a bee followed her through the front door, did a lap around the room, and flew back out.

In October of 2016, the Heavenly Honey Company opened a honey tasting room in downtown Ojai.

“That was dad, checking it out, letting me know he was there.”

“People have been very excited to learn about the honey,” Haskins said. “Fifty percent of our mission in the tasting room is to educate people about bees and honey. Many people have no idea what the world of honey is. And they’re always interested to learn.” She noted that one of the biggest issues occurring right now is the massive amount of honey being bounced into the U.S. market from other countries. The honey is sold to the U.S. for “very low prices,” and this lowpriced honey is hurting beekeepers in the United States. “The U.S. is a dumping ground for foreign honey.” Consequently, “the largest U.S. packers are only willing to pay the U.S.

For more information, visit www.heavenlyhoneycompany.com Call 805-633-9103 or email barbara@heavenlyhoneycompany.com