An Interview with Linda Humphries of Miss Bee Haven Honey Company. Linda has recently moved her hives to the Farm’s former oxen pen, where they are thriving in their new home.
What is your relationship and history with the Bartlett’s?
My relationship with Bartlett’s Farm goes back to 1971, first grade when I began riding the Hummock Pond school bus route every morning out to the Bartlett’s house on the farm to pick up Cindy, John and eventually the twins. Back then, there were still a herd of cattle living on the farm so there was much to observe. I remember riding my pony, Chief, over to the farm when I was about 12 for a horse show held in the cow field where the tomatoes and veggies grown now.
All throughout high school, Cindy B and I were inseparable best friends and that is how I came to know Dorothy and Phil. When I was 19, I needed a place to live so I came to work on the Farm and lived in the farmhouse. I loved farm life. I worked hard and became crew leader my second year. I n old agricultural terms, I was Head Hoer. That continued through my college, travel and adventure years, with Phil and Dorothy supporting and guiding me every step of the way. Fast forward 25 years, and I found myself looking for a job with lots of flexibility so I could support my youngest child who has Down’s Syndrome. I feel so fortunate, in a circle-of-life way, to find myself occasionally back in the Garden Center, a wonderfully supportive and healthy environment, being paid to exercise and talk about plants.
What made you first get interested in keeping bees?
My lifetime of hobbies usually revolve around my stomach; farming, foraging, fishing, preserving, cooking, feeding and eating. Essentially, food is my life. I own a property in Maine that is my retirement plan and where I practice my farming skills. It has a few acres of wild blueberry barren and a small apple orchard that I knew would certainly benefit from some resident pollinators. I did some reading, then joined Ack Beekeeper Club and signed on to the a mentorship program offered by the Sustainable Nantucket Community farm across from Bartlett’s on Hummock Pond road. This year, I expanded my apiary and moved the girls and their hives to Bartlett’s cow paddock and established Miss Bee Haven Honey.
What types of bees do you keep? Are your hives producing honey?
Miss Bee Haven bees are mostly a Russian strain, brought to the US in 1997. The came from very near the area in Asia that the dreaded Varroa mites originated so they have already evolved better grooming behaviors than any other variety of European honey bees to combat, survive and coexist with Varroa, the pests usually found to be at the heart of colony collapse disorder. A great trait to have in your apiary gene pool! They are also very calm and easy to work right with and are very winter, cold and damp hardy, which is important in our location and they make a lot of tasty honey.
Right now, Miss Bee Haven bees are making what is legally considered wildflower honey. Foragers will travel over 2 miles to gather pollen and nectar, so at the moment they might be feeding on indigenous wild flowers and blooming shrubs in the rare salt grass plains of smooth hummocks or the sweet peas, Rosa Rugosa, Dandelions, clover of Cisco, and of course, Bartlett’s field crops. The diversity of the farm’s field crops are a big benefit to pollinators in mid-summer, Drought and dearth can leave the bees without enough food sources at a critical time. The Farm’s fields always have something blooming, giving the pollinators the best chances of building their honey stores to survive winter and grow the colony. The resident honey bees, in return provide consistent pollination services, ensuring the fields produce abundant veggies and flowers.
How do we buy your honey, and support our local pollinators?
If you would like to support local pollinators, come see Hilary in the Garden Center. She has been tracking which landscape plants the bees are most attracted. If you would like to know more about Miss Bee Haven honey and what’s up in the apiary, please follow us on our Facebook page or on Instagram under Missbeehavenlinda to get updates on the health and well-being of the girls, drones and their queens, and for harvest times and updates on when our honey will be available in the market again.