Steve Moeller, of Lone Cottonwood Farm, has been a beekeeper since 1974. Having been a vendor at the Columbia Farmers Market since 2017, it’s clear his roots in the beekeeping community go way deeper than his time spent at the market. As a Member of the Boone Regional Beekeepers and Past Secretary/Treasurer of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association, Steve’s passion for beekeeping is evident.
“As a young man I developed a passion for working with honey bees and that passion has remained with me throughout my life. Beekeeping, I believe, is best approached as a life-long learning experience and the learning never ends. That’s what I enjoy the most. I didn’t start keeping bees to sell honey, but I soon found myself with more honey than our family could use. So, the first honey I sold was at a roadside stand from the trunk of my 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. Then I participated in several farmers markets over a period of years. In the 1990’s I dabbled in the specialty food market, shipping honey to gourmet food shops and gift shops over a four-state area. I had a small line of honey products developed and packaged especially for that market, I also had a presence in the Kansas City Gift Mart. It was an interesting experiment and I learned a lot about marketing and customer preferences.”
Steve’s life-long pursuit for perfecting local honey inspires his process, “My honey is usually a mild flavored, mixed wildflower honey from various floral sources blooming from May thru July. Several varieties of clover bloom profusely during this time, along with many species of other wildflowers growing along roadsides. Many of these flowers are considered weeds, but together, these different varieties make a light amber honey with a wonderful flavor. The beauty of honey as a natural sweetener is the unique flavor that comes from the nectar secreted by flowering plants.”
According to Steve, “With so many sources blooming at the same time, it can be difficult to separate and provide varietal honeys in mid-Missouri.” Therefore, Steve keeps bees in several different locations, “I usually have about a dozen hives in each bee yard. This helps me take advantage of the floral sources in different locations, again mostly from a mixture of wildflowers. They also provide pollen, which is a critical source of protein in the honey bee diet. Some locations will produce better than others, sometimes from an isolated pop-up shower at just the right time. The extra moisture will give the nectar flow a boost. Honey bees will typically forage over a three-mile radius, which equates to over 18,000 acres. Very little honey is produced from agricultural crops in mid-Missouri. Corn and soybeans, for the most part, are a food desert for honey bees.”
Steve made the decision to change direction and sell at the Columbia Farmers Market because he thought it would be a good fit. “I enjoy visiting with all the customers and we’ve got a really good group of vendors offering a wide variety of produce and other products. We all benefit from that variety that draws good crowds to the market. And now with the first phase of the Ag Park complete, it just keeps getting better.”
Just like Steve’s honey, his sweet demeanor is hard to miss. The long line of kiddos waiting patiently for his honey sticks and perhaps a quick lesson on honeybees makes Steve a not-to-be-missed experience at the market.
Make sure to “BEE” supportive and stop by Steve’s booth this Saturday!