Nick and Renee’s Black Locust Honey is a rare treat to enjoy among the other sweet treats at the market. In the middle of May, the bees exclusively gather nectar from the flowers of black locust trees to create a honey that is ultra light in color and flavor. The honey is not robust like the mid-summer or late harvest varieties. “The bees do all the hard work to gather all the nectar from the trees. What they eat turns directly into the product. Unfortunately, some years we don’t have this variety available. If it rains too much or we have severe weather, the flowers will fall off the tress, then the bees can’t access the nectar from the flowers. Honey from each hive will have a different flavor but this honey has a great buttery flavor that’s great on biscuits and toast but I prefer it in my coffee. On Saturday mornings, I just swing over and grab a cup of coffee from our neighbors at Fretboard Coffee and it works super well!”
In total, Nick & Renne have 5 different locations for their beehives, one of which is located near the Missouri Wild Flower Nursery, just south of Jefferson City, which is where their family is located. Having multiple different locations for the hives is paramount to guaranteeing a successful harvest. By placing his hive next to the Missouri Wild Flower Nursery, he’s able to accomplish a well-balanced flavor profile, as the bees have numerous wild flowers to select from. This diverse assortment leads to a superior product, as the bees have several options when selecting nectar.
Nicks fascination with bees has a lot to do with the structure of the hive. “All the workers have different jobs and each bee’s job will change as the bee becomes more mature. At the first stage of a bees life they are responsible for feeding the pupa. Then, they progress to foraging for nectar. If a bird or animal doesn’t eat them, they become guard bees for the hive and protect their queen. They move up in the ranks, much like humans do. Their 4 different rolls are vital to the success of the hive.”
Enemies of bees hives include a long list of native insects and animals such as: mites, ants, moths, beetles, skunks, raccoons, woodpeckers, kingfishers, mice and other rodents. It’s Nick’s job to protect the hives from predators to guarantee the health and validity of his hard working bees. He will lock up the hives over the winter to guarantee mice and other critters won’t vandalize the hives by making their nests inside the bee boxes or eating the bee’s honey reserves.
Each year, the amount of honey Nick and Renee are able to produce varies greatly due to fluctuating weather patterns and the success of the hive. “The amount of honey is extremely dependent on weather because anything over 95 degrees puts the bees into a cooling process. They quit foraging for nectar and only collect water for the hive. The foraging bees will bring back the water droplets and fan the water with their wings. This acts as a natural air conditioning unit.” Therefore, super hot seasons or very wet seasons will greatly affect how much honey is produced by the bees.
Since selling at the Columbia farmers market in 2016, Nick and Renee’s have enjoyed the hard work that’s required in order to set up their booth every Saturday morning. Nick enjoys the “older way of things” and the interaction with his customers, “I won’t sell anything that isn’t good enough for my family or myself. I’m my own biggest critic so I enjoy talking with folks who enjoy the product as much as we do. I get to explain the why, how and what we do. It’s a lot of hard work but we enjoy it.”
4 years ago, Nick made the hard decision to quit the construction company his father built with his own two hands in order to pursue a full-time position as owner of Honeysuckle Acres. Nick reflects on his decision to leave the family business, “Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But my biggest reward is hearing folks who love our products share their thoughts with me. I put my best forward and my customers get the best that I’m able to do.”
Another one of Nick’s passions is the trial and error involved with making flavored honey and learning something new along the way. “We have a long list of all-natural flavors that I add to the honey. Flavors such as raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, elderberry, pomegranate, orange, peach, maple, vanilla and lavender are all the flavors I’ve created so far. We also incorporate those different flavors into our honey flavored lemonades for a great treat on a hot day!”
In addition to flavored honey’s, Nick has developed a creamed honey variation. This variation doesn’t include cream, rather the texture is creamy after manipulating the honey. His creamed honey flavors include, cinnamon, jalapeno, vanilla, coffee and pumpkin spice.
For all you die-hard honey fans, Nick and Renee have a long list of body products for you to enjoy. “Renee researched and used all our body care products in our home, so it seemed only natural to sell these products at the market as well.” Her body products utilize beeswax and are non-synthetic, contain non-artificial flavors and are all natural. You can find the following products at their booth: lip balm, lotion sticks, powdered deodorant and beeswax soaps.
If honey wasn’t enough, Nick has developed his own pouches of speedy Salsa Mix that are ready to be served once diced tomatoes are added. In Nick’s words, “It takes like homemade salsa without all the work! I’ve already done all the hard work for you.”
Just like their bees, Nick and Renee are busy building their business and growing their family. “My hope is my children will one day be future beekeepers.” Their son Gabe is right by his mama’s side every Saturday morning and will give you a big smile if you share one in turn. Sometimes the sweetest things are the simplest. Make sure to visit this bee-utiful family every Saturday Morning, bright and early, for sweet treats that make you feel good all over!