• Editor's Note Spring 2008

    Editor's Note Spring 2008

    The word ‘chores’ is spoken often in New England’s farming community, but people who work outside the agricultural sector don’t use it much. Last time many of us heard the word was when our mother told us to go do our chores–or no allowance! Nowadays, we ‘run errands’ and ‘go to work,’ reflecting our estrangement from manual labor. We certainly have as much to do as farmers, especially if we’re parents or are working two jobs to make ends meet; all of us are busy in our own way. It’s just that farmers rarely get a day off.

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  • One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    In the depths of winter, a visit to Carol Stedman’s new greenhouse in Hartland provides a breath of spring. A sea of tiny greens waves hello. Claim a seat on the cement blocks that ring the 2-ft. high garden beds, bend over, and take a whiff of soil and fresh growing things. This is what I did on a recent January day. With snow blanketing the out-of-doors, the air temperature inside was only slightly higher than outside, not really warm. But the soil… a thermometer stuck deep in the dirt read a balmy 60 degrees. What was going on?

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  • Eat it on the Radio

    Eat it on the Radio

    In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

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  • Collapse of the Colonies

    Collapse of the Colonies

    The word “localvore” may have been Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2007, but a close runner-up was “colony collapse disorder,” an unexplained phenomenon in which bees disappear mysteriously from their hives. The two words are more related than one might think, though. Given the risk this disorder poses to the foods we eat in Vermont, it’s important to ask: how serious is colony collapse disorder in our state?

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  • Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Todd Hardie is shy and quiet, but when asked about his favorite subject–bees–he is eloquent and full of great information. Todd has been keeping bees since he was a young boy. His knowledge about bees, honey, and apitherapy–the age-old tradition of therapy from the beehive–seems boundless. And his passion and commitment to sharing that knowledge with others comes through in his business, Honey Gardens Apiaries.

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  • Set the Table with Asian Greens

    Set the Table with Asian Greens

    With names such as shungiku, komatsuna and takana, Asian greens may seem somewhat intimidating to even an experienced home chef. In recent years, Americans have become familiar with unusual greens such as bok choy and mizuna, but if you’re the adventurous type, a vast array of even more interesting Asian greens awaits. And while these varieties are not available at the corner store, local farmers who grow them can provide the freshest quality, and may also supply helpful tips for using them.

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  • Zack Woods Herb Farm

    Zack Woods Herb Farm

    The growing demand for locally-sourced products in Vermont is leading residents to look beyond vegetables and meat to another important item for consumption: herbs. As a result, herb farms such as Zack Woods Herb Farm in Hyde Park, founded in 1999 by Jeff Carpenter and his wife, Melanie Slick Carpenter, are enjoying amazing success as Vermonters seek out local herbs not just for inclusion in homemade meals but for medicinal use as well. At Zack Woods, 35 medicinal herbs are grown for a host of ailments, and the Carpenters are working hard to keep up with demand.

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  • Three Square—Spring 2008

    Three Square—Spring 2008

    Growing up in Vermont, I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura day lilies. When I returned recently, to live here full-time, I began to notice how often the conversation in Vermont turns to food. What’s for dinner? For the next few issues of Local Banquet, I’ll visit a variety of people at home, peer into their iceboxes, and find out what they’re eating and why. And because these can often be personal subjects, I’ve omitted last names.

    Susan is chopping an enormous white radish. “You’re in the store and you think, why the hell would anyone buy this?”

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  • A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    In good weather, the drive between southwestern New Hampshire and the Capital District of New York state can be breathtakingly beautiful: there’s the view from Hogback Mountain, the wind farm in Searsburg, the Bennington obelisk. But at 4 a.m. during a December snow storm, while pulling a trailer loaded with lambs over a foggy two-lane road, the drive is tedious at best and can be downright hairy.

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  • Cooking the Sting Out

    Cooking the Sting Out

    If you take care, and wear the proper gear, you can harvest an abundant and fascinating wild edible. Folks who have been stung by this rascal know what I’m talking about, while those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating it will undoubtedly come to appreciate this nutritious and tasty plant.

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  • Writing Down the Farm

    Writing Down the Farm

    The logic is straightforward and simple. It goes like this: Farming is the one business that everyone needs, because everyone eats. Add to it the fact that children grow up—often faster than adults can imagine. And when Vermont children become adults, they may want to become part of the local food system, either as a farmer or an eater.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    There are some meals that spell COMFORT to all who eat them. Leave your teeth behind. Savor the smell and the melting texture. Give yourself over to a sensuous repast.

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  • Last Morsel—The Taste

    Last Morsel—The Taste

    I roasted a loin roast from one of the pigs I’d raised—dinner plans had been canceled because of the ice storm.

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Sweet Honey in the Raw

Photo of Todd and his crew by Kate Corrigan
Todd and his crew

Written on

March 01 , 2008

Todd Hardie is shy and quiet, but when asked about his favorite subject–bees–he is eloquent and full of great information. Todd has been keeping bees since he was a young boy. His knowledge about bees, honey, and apitherapy–the age-old tradition of therapy from the beehive–seems boundless. And his passion and commitment to sharing that knowledge with others comes through in his business, Honey Gardens Apiaries.

Started by Todd 30 years ago, Honey Gardens on Rte. 7 in Ferrisburgh has been selling raw honey since its inception. Although it’s not as popular as the “runny” honey found in those plastic bear-shaped containers, thick, raw honey is thought to aid the digestive system, strengthen the immune system, promote overall respiratory health, and help fight seasonal allergies. At first, Todd had more raw honey than he could sell, so he was forced to heat some of it and turn it into the liquid honey that many consumers want. However, he hated ruining the health benefits of his honey by heating, so he was pleased when the demand for raw honey finally caught up with the supply.

Now, Todd sells only raw honey, except when it becomes so crystallized that there is no other way to get the honey out and into jars than to heat it into a more liquid form. Because Todd does not like heating his honey, it must all be packed into jars before it gets too crystallized; the Honey Gardens staff can sometimes be packing honey as much as 20 hours a day in busy periods–not as convenient as spacing the work out over the year, but well worth the effort for the extra flavor and health benefits.

Honey Gardens also makes and sells Elderberry Honey syrup to combat colds and flu and to strengthen the immune system. The syrup includes echinacea and propolis in its pleasantly short list of ingredients. Propolis, in case you don't know, is another product of bees. The name means before (pro) city (polis), and is made by bees using resin from pine and poplar trees to stop up the holes in their hives. This keeps wasps from stealing the honey, and keeps the hive warm. Some propolis may be found on the frames (the part of the beehive that the honey is stored on), but if a beekeeper wants more propolis, he or she can leave a feedbag on the top of the hive, with the cover open. The feedbag will be filled with propolis as the bees close up the opening.

Propolis is an antibiotic, a viricide, and a fungicide. Honey Gardens sells a propolis spray for use on sore throats, inflamed gums and mouth sores, cuts, burns, and stings. They also make a Honey Propolis Salve for dry skin, chapped lips, cuts, bug bites, and stings. The tincture is made, as are most tinctures, by using alcohol to pull the “good stuff” out of the propolis. Todd also uses apple cider vinegar in his propolis spray and his Elderberry Honey syrup, for these reasons: it is medicinal, keeps crystal honey liquid, balances pH, preserves without refrigeration, and is available locally.

Todd pulled some bee pollen out of the freezer for me to look at–little balls of bright orange, yellow, brown, and green. He sprinkles it on his oatmeal every morning. It is an almost perfect food containing enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and lots of energy; marathon runners eat bee pollen. The bee pollen that Todd sells is from Colorado. There are not enough bees and large fields of flowers here to sell northern bee pollen commercially.
What other great bee products am I forgetting? None of your beeswax! (Sorry.) Beeswax mixed with olive oil is my favorite hand treatment. Beeswax candles are beautiful, smell wonderful, and burn longer than petroleum or soy candles. Todd tells me they also make negative ions, so it’s like being around a waterfall or in the shower–the ions purify the air. Bees make wax using their honey–eight pounds of honey for one pound of wax–and use it to build the honeycombs they store their honey in.

Most of these products are part of traditional Eastern European apitherapy–therapy from the beehive. But there is at least one more apitherapy treatment I should mention. Though many would be surprised to hear it, even bee stings are therapeutic. Todd has a small figure of the human body in his office above the Honey Gardens shop. It shows the body’s meridian lines with hundreds of Chinese characters marking the spots where stings can help heal a variety of aches and ailments, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and more.

Honey Gardens also gives away packets of clover seed with each purchase, in the hopes that people will plant clover and other plants that are beneficial to bees. The monocultures on many of our nation's farms–nothing but one type of nectar for miles–is comparable to a one-food diet for a human. Without the variety of nourishing plants that strengthen them, bees in America have become too weak to fight off mites and disease. I myself have plans to start growing elderberries and other plants that will provide bees with a better assortment of food for their immune systems. There is a list of beneficial plants you can grow, along with more great information on bees and apitherapy, at www.honeygardens.com.

Every summer Honey Gardens sells elderberry plants to the community. They also have beekeeping classes every May, mead-making classes, and instruction on how to make old fashioned drinks and herbal tinctures. Honey Gardens also teams up with Shelburne Vineyards to brew their elderberry honey wine, “Melissa,” as well as blueberry and black currant honey wines, or meads. Todd has kindly shared one of their mead recipes (see sidebar). It takes only 30 minutes to make and just six weeks to ferment! These drinks could actually be a form of apitherapy themselves.

If you’re like me, you may be seriously considering getting your own hives. I asked Todd the best way to start. “Help your local beekeeper,” he said. “There is lots of work to do and they can help you learn how to do it.” Also, the Vermont Beekeeper Association has great free classes all year (see www.vtbeekeepers.org). And check out Middlebury author Ross Conrad's book Natural Beekeeping, an organic approach to raising bees.

Lastly, you can now see Todd in action on the big screen. A filmmaker in Charlotte, Jan Cannon, has made a film about Todd and other beekeepers. The first showing is planned for Friday, April 25 at
7 p.m. at the Ilsley Library Meeting Room on Main Street in Middlebury. Check honeygardens.com or future issues of Local Banquet for upcoming screenings and locations. The film will also be available for purchase at honeygardens.com.

Photo of Todd and his crew by Kate Corrigan

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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