Honey From the Hood builds community and health
I sit down to write with a lovely homemade chai tea latte slightly sweetened with raw Honey From the Hood black locust clover blend from the South Bend Unity Gardens. Each blend has a distinct flavor based on the types of plants, season and locations where honeybees gather pollen. Right now they’re selling sweet clover, award-winning wild flower, clover basswood, and the LaSalle Square blend at Purple Porch Co-op, Indulgence Cafe, Javier’s Bistro, Chicory Cafe, Down to Earth, Nutrition Works, LePeep, and directly to consumers.
I originally got really curious about Honey From the Hood after seeing it for the first time “in the flesh” at Purple Porch. I only buy local, raw honey, but the Honey From the Hood label doesn’t describe the honey as raw. Todd Anglemeyer of Rein Juicery happened to be standing nearby and proclaimed his delight for Honey From the Hood. I asked him if the honey was raw, and he seemed certain it was (it is). So I bought it. And it tastes excellent.
I wanted to know more so I contacted Sara Stewart, Executive Director of the Unity Gardens. She explained that as the Unity Garden grew, they began to look for more ways to become self-sustaining and educate the community about producing healthful food. In 2012 Unity Gardens began teaching gardening classes and quickly expanded its outdoor classroom to include bee hives placed and tended by Tim Ives of Ives Hives in several Unity Gardens locations. Peace Bees, headed up by Alex Lezniak, teaches Unity Gardens beekeeping classes onsite during warmer weather, and I’m hoping to make it to the next set of free beekeeping classes on Saturday, January 24, at the St. Joseph Public Library downtown. Selling Honey From the Hood has helped support the Unity Gardens as it continues to expand. There are now more than 50 Unity Garden locations!
Sara says Unity Gardens is lucky to be working with Tim Ives as he’s passionate about natural beekeeping and only using local bees. “We love working with Tim because he keeps bees differently than most,” she said. “He never feeds his bees sugar, but keeps enough honey in the hive so they have appropriate food, keeping them healthy through the winter. Honeybees help pollinate plants in our gardens, help the environment and give us an opportunity to raise awareness.”
Tim has 170 colonies at 22 locations in the Michiana area, 6 at Unity Gardens. Part of his mission is to spread a better understanding of the integral part bees play in food production. “All fruits, vegetables, nuts, many trees and flowers are dependent on pollination,” explained Tim. “Honeybees are one of the most efficient pollinators because of their population versus other solitary pollinators.”
He says he’s been able to consistently keep colonies alive more than 10 years despite bee losses elsewhere because he leaves enough honey for bees to eat throughout the winter and no longer feeds them sugar syrup. “Over the cold winter bees cluster up and maintain 92 degrees Fahrenheit at the core. The colder the outside temperature, the more they’ll consume in honey for energy.”
I asked Tim how he got started beekeeping and his story elicited a ridiculous expression of utter surprise and alarm on my face. “Well this is kind of a fun story,” said Tim. “I used to drink 10-12 bottles of Mountain Dew per day. When I quit drinking soda or using sugar in coffee (March 2001) I started using honey instead. Since I was used to consuming 4000 calories per day, I was consuming a quart of honey (3600 calories) every other day. In June 2001 I got my first couple colonies of bees. I thought it would be cheaper versus buying honey. So it pretty much progressed from there.”
Tim explained that his biggest issue every year is equipment costs. Doubling up 100 colonies costs him around $50,000 and then he’s always looking for new hive locations. “All my equipment has been built from reclaimed lumber from various sources, so my costs are dramatically lower compared to buying equipment from major manufacturers,” said Tim. “In 2009 when building construction took a downturn, I just started making more boxes and splitting colonies for increases, taking 15 colonies to the present 170.”
Did you know South Bend is a bee-friendly city? The law used to require 5 acres of land to raise bees, but now it is legal to keep bees within the city on smaller plots of land.
Want to learn more about gardening or beekeeping? Check out the upcoming Unity Gardens class schedule.
Do you love chocolate, beer, wine? For $30 you can enjoy a three course chocolate feast by Indulgence Pastry Shop & Café at 7 p.m. on February 5. Each course is paired with wine and beer and all proceeds go to support the Unity Gardens.