Local buzz: Hungry Hill Farm keeps the bees

Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

It’s honey season, y’all! Bee colonies like the ones at Hungry Hill Farm have been buzzing around for months, and it’s time to reap the rewards. According to farm owner Glenn Clayton, June and July are the “height of the honey flow,” and one beehive can hold upward of 60,000 honeybees this time of year. 

Most of the farm’s harvest is classic wildflower honey, made from the nectar of whatever flowers the pollinators go out and collect, which is available at $7 for 16 ounces. For the true connoisseurs, there’s the sourwood honey—more difficult to produce, it’s made with the nectar of sourwood trees, which only bloom for a few weeks during the summer. Those bees are kept separate from the others and given easy access to the flowers, and a 16-ounce jar of the sourwood honey goes for $12.

As for what to do with the honey once it’s harvested? Clayton’s list is endless.

“It does well in making barbecue sauce, it’s really well used as a replacement for sugar in just about any recipe,” he says. “It’s sterile, good for treatment of wounds, good for treatment of a sore throat.”

It’s also great for keeping the bugs at bay if you happen to spend a lot of time outside. Just mix equal parts honey, apple cider vinegar and water, drink about four ounces a day for a couple weeks, he says, and say goodbye to pests.

“After about two to three weeks of doing that it’ll keep the chiggers away, it’ll keep the ticks away,” he says. “It’ll even keep your husband away from you because by then you’ll smell like a vinegar pod.”

Clayton has been keeping bees for more than 50 years, and for him it’s a labor of love. When he first picked up the hobby in the 1960s, he had no way of knowing how much the practice would change and evolve over the years, mostly due to corporate pesticides and an influx of invasive foreign insects that devastate honey bees. There was a day when he only had to check on his bees a few times a year, but now keeping the bees healthy and safe requires about triple the amount of work and attention as it did when he started. 

“Why do I still do it? Well, I’ve been stung so many times, it’s in my blood and I can’t get it out,” he says. “But really, even though it’s gettin’ to be a hassle doin’ it, it’s still enjoyable to keep bees. It’s just demanding.”

Honey at home

Want to try your hand at using some of the area’s best local honey? Tavola bar manager Christian Johnston recommends mixing up an Airmail, a classic summery cocktail.

Combine and shake 1 oz. aged rum, .5 oz. fresh lime juice and .5 oz. honey syrup* in a metal shaker and strain
into a cocktail couple. Top with 2 oz. sparkling wine and enjoy.

*Honey syrup is equal parts still water and honey. Feel free to create a twist on the classic by adding ingredients
like rosemary, orange blossom water or sumac.