Meadow BlazingStar Honey joined Iowa Food Coop during the summer of 2016. They are urban beekeepers that wowed our members with their unique beeswax luminaries and delicious creamed and raw honey. You can shop their products online here. Thanks Andy and Catherine for sharing your story with us!
What is the name of your farm?
We chose the name Meadow BlazingStar Honey to honor one of our favorite native plants, Meadow Blazing Star. It is a beautiful prairie plant that is very beneficial to bees, monarchs, & other important pollinators.
Tell us a little about the make-up of your farm.
We are a small family business located in Des Moines. Andy manages on average about 135 hives that are located in & around Polk County. Our workforce includes our young son, who is our dedicated product tester, especially when honey is involved. We started with two hives on a hill in Kentucky, & when a series of fortunate events led us to Iowa, we continued to build our bee business as we’ve found our place here.
What does your farm specialize in?
We sell raw honey, handmade beeswax products, & Northern-bred bees. We work hard to keep our bees healthy by boosting their nutrition, controlling pests, & choosing great locations for the hives in the Des Moines area. We believe sustainability can be found in well-managed hives consisting of good genetic stock, & we’re relieved to have never experienced tremendous losses. Another focus we maintain is education & community outreach. We are always learning from others, & we give information when we can. Andy is on the board of the Iowa Honey Producers Association & also teaches a popular beekeeping class each winter. He is an Eastern Apicultural Society Master Beekeeper & enjoys helping other beekeepers get better at what they do.
Can you tell us a few things that make your signature product(s) special?
We take care to ensure our honey retains its raw form. We offer creamed honey, also called spun honey, which is raw honey that has been purposely crystallized by controlling its temperature. The result is a smooth, spreadable luxurious treat! We produce unique beeswax products that are crafted from wax from our own hives. We breed our own queens to be gentle, productive, & well-suited to our Northern climate.
What is your farm’s biggest season?
Honey is extracted in late summer, & it is our goal to always have it in enough supply to be able to provide it year round. Beeswax is a by-product of the extraction process & is available throughout the year. We are looking forward to offering new beeswax products such as fire starters, ornaments, & beautiful molded candles for the fall & upcoming holiday season.
Are there any special processes involved with harvesting or processing your products? Can you tell us about them?
Lucky for the beekeeper, bees have a natural tendency to store surplus honey above all else in the hive. This allows us to remove the upper boxes from the hive & bring the extra honey into our honey house, away from the bees. An electric hot knife is used to slice the wax cappings off of the frames of honey comb that are in the boxes. These frames of comb are placed in an extractor reel, where they’re spun. The resulting centrifugal force throws honey from the frames. It flows from the stainless steel walls of the extractor & is collected into tanks & buckets. The honey that is extracted is in the same form as it was when removed from the hive. The wax cappings that are removed in the extraction process are rendered in a time- and labor-intensive process, & we use this wax to create our beeswax products.
What is the most important thing for consumers to know about your products?
We are a small, local, family-owned business. What we have to offer is ours: it’s legitimate. It’s a world where it can be hard to determine the authenticity or origin of a product that you’re buying, & it can be difficult to make consumer choices because of so much deception. Our products are simply what we say they are.
Do you have a funny/interesting/surprising story about your business?
We once reveled in the glory of a 5-lb bucket as our sole honey crop, & now we’ll see well over 5,000 pounds of honey as our harvest this year. As we sell our honey & beeswax products in fantastic local stores such as Beaverdale Books & the Iowa Food Cooperative–& at our neighborhood Beaverdale Farmer’s Market–we cannot be more amazed by & appreciative of the support from our community. We are very proud to be honey suppliers to Buzzed Bee Meadery, a brand-new meadery in Melbourne, Iowa that is owned by a great, talented family. We submitted a handful of entries to the apiary division at the Iowa State Fair this year, & we were very excited to earn a handsome collection of ribbons. In each step of the way, we never saw the next step coming, & we are looking forward to seeing what happens next. While it’s all been semi-crazy & a lot of hard work, it’s all been very rewarding & a lot of fun.