From hobbyist to entrepreneur, it's been quite a journey for beekeeper Anne Smith. After working for Alm Hill Gardens Farm and as a salesperson for a beekeeper at the Market, she joined the Puget Sound Beekeeper's Club in 2008 and learned from as many sources as possible - plus through good-old fashioned scientific experimentation - how to keep bees.
"You can't really truly learn until you get your hands in it," Anne says. And well-gloved hands they are. She bought two hives, one each for Seattle's Capitol Hill and Georgetown neighborhoods. Those hives continue to out-produce their country cousins in northern Whatcom County. Anne believes it's the radiant heat of the city, a longer bee season (due to a warmer fall and spring), and landscaping—thank you, urban gardeners. "There is a small grove of Black Locust trees in Georgetown, the only in the city, that produces great honey," Anne adds.
She also mastered beekeeping with the help of a mentor, Bill Blanchard of Everson. Bill's bees were pollinators for Alm Hill Gardens Farm, and before he retired, he taught Anne the ropes of beekeeping. In 2009, Anne became Alm Hill's (and partner Growing Washington's) pollinator. Produce you buy at their Pike Place Market farm table is created with help from Anne's bees.
A dry and warm June means bees can strengthen to produce good quantities of honey thanks to nectar from abundant blossoms. Anne's hopes are high for a long and productive summer for her 54 hives. In July, Anne will take hives to the Ellensburg area for buckwheat, rabbit bush and other east-of-the-Cascades flora that will result in tasty honeys.
When asked how consumers can vouch that honey is local, Anne offers these tips:
- Honey naturally, uniformly, crystallizes. Honey containing additives crystallize in part of the jar, but the top will remain liquid. (By the way, to de-crystallize your honey, place honey jar in warm water.)
- Look for thickness. Tip the jar and it should slowly make a bubble that looks like a lava lamp.
- Look for some small particulates like pollen in unfiltered honey—that's a good thing.
- Look for the names of local flowering trees or other flora in the name of the honey.
- Find Anne and her Sunny Honey Company tent on the cobblestones of Pike Place on Saturdays and at Pike Place Market Express at City Hall Plaza on Tuesdays.