For many of us, visiting the weekly farmers market is a connection to our past and the opportunity to relive it in our daily life. We may have fond childhood memories of collecting colorful fruit and vegetables from gardens, orchards or fields. This certainly holds true for me.
Growing up in a small town, we had a large garden in our backyard that allowed for spontaneous sampling of carrots and snap peas as well as all the raspberries we could eat. Beyond the garden, there were family connections to fields of sweet corn and tomatoes at the ready for picking in fall.
In addition to memories of such colorful produce, my family had the unique experience of having an endless supply of honey. Why? My grandfather was an apiarist. That’s right, he was a beekeeper.
Our visits with him at his northwest Wisconsin country home included the rhythm of his beekeeping duties. Dressed in his protective white bee suit, he would make frequent visits to his hives, checking on the bees and tending to their needs.
As the seasons turned, he would extract the clear golden honey in large stainless vats in his processing house. During those warm autumn days, all of us grandchildren would reap the benefit of chewing on as much sweet honeycomb as we wanted. Naturally, jars of honey would be gifts for our schoolteachers, which may or may not have helped with my grades!
While you may not have a family member in the beekeeping business, a local beekeeper is as close as your neighborhood farmers market. Supporting beekeepers by purchasing local honey direct from the producer helps them cover the costs of beekeeping. And you can enjoy the great flavors of local flora.
As we all well know, our bees also play a crucial role pollinating the crops that fill our markets with the produce we eat.
Dan Walsh of Walsh Ridge Farm is one such beekeeper who is a regular honey vendor at the Fulton Farmers Market. Along with the maple syrup and heirloom tomatoes he sells at the market, Dan started beekeeping with two hives six years ago, and has expanded to 20 hives on his acreage in nearby Wisconsin.
Beekeeping was always a personal interest of Dan’s, and he decided to pursue this entrepreneurial endeavor after first learning as much as he could on his own and participating in University of Minnesota coursework.
When asked what impresses him most about bees, Dan says he is simply amazed at “how they know what to do.” He is always fascinated with how effective bees are in communicating with each other and in sharing the division of labor.
Just as bees thrive in a colony, Dan enjoys being a part of the community that the market creates for all to enjoy. So, consider picking up some honey at your next market visit.
Fall is a terrific time to incorporate honey into your weekly menu. Give this recipe a try!
Honey roasted vegetables
2 medium sweet potatoes (1 lb. total), peeled, halved and cut into 1/2 pieces
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
Course salt and ground pepper
3-5 sprigs of thyme
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using a 3-quart baking dish, combine sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, walnuts, honey and oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Top vegetables with thyme sprigs and roast them until they are tender and browned at the edges, about one hour.
Adapted from Martha Stewart