On a table in the middle of the Farmers Market in Central Park on Wednesday night sits a line of jars filled with amber-colored honey next to a cup of sample sticks. Free samples of locally produced treats are a major attraction of the Farmers Market experience, tempting those strolling through to find the freshest of fresh produce and snacks.
The organic goodness found at this particular vendor, Pure All Natural Honey, is a unique selection of honey in a myriad of flavors. It is the work of two passionate beekeepers who are committed to healthy living, but also to bringing the tastiest flavors to the dinner table, and luckily for the rest of us, to the Farmers Market.
“What bees do is magic and amazing, the whole process they have to go through,” said Doneice Woody, a CSU Fresno alumna who has been helping her mother, Robin Harlan, start up the business since her graduation. “I love selling a product that is healthy, and one that people enjoy and love.”
Honey provides a healthy and versatile alternative to sugar as well, said Harlan, who has been bottling and selling the natural honey products since 2010.
“Sugar has no health benefits,” Harlan said. “When you use honey, you get a much better type of energy — you don’t get the same highs followed by a crash. Also, there are enzymes, and eating locally produced honey helps with allergies.”
The Harlan family has, like honeybees themselves, become accustomed to using honey as a primary source of energy.
“I keep a jar in my pickup and if I feel like I need energy, I’ll take a shot of honey,” said Henry Harlan, a fifth-generation farmer in the Winters area and owner of Henry’s Bullfrog Bees. “Try it yourself — see how you feel now and then see how you feel in 10 minutes.”
Selling honey at the Farmer’s Market was something neither Robin nor her daughter saw in their future. Both having dealt with difficulties in the job market after the economic crash of 2008, they turned to the resources they had on hand.
“One day, Henry said, ‘Why don’t you just start selling the honey? It’s a natural byproduct of what we have here,’” Robin said.
Now, the bees are in fields of wildflowers as well as orange and tangerine groves, pollinating the family’s existing crops while also serving as the primary fuel behind the production of the popular Farmer’s Market item.
“We can start collecting after everything starts blooming,” Henry said. “We average 40-50 pounds per season from bees in a particular crop.”
“I also prepare yams like mashed potatoes, add milk, a little butter and then our cinnamon honey,” Woody said. “I never sweetened my coffee until we made the cinnamon. Or, what I love is our orange blossom honey with maytag blue cheese on a cracker.”
Whether looking to season meat for an entrée or to accompany a cheese to nosh on between meals, the Pure product line is geared toward all tastes. Henry acknowledged that honey’s ability to reflect the dynamic essence of local crops is what makes it a unique product.
“Honey’s like wine; you could open up a tasting room,” Henry said. “There’s so many different flavors and blends. Sometimes I like the Star Thistle, and sometimes I like the Spring Blossom, which is a mix of all the flowers in the valley. You can get it today and again next week and it’ll taste completely different.”
Why the Davis Farmer’s Market?
Although Pure is relatively new to the Farmer’s Market, it seems the brand has found its niche.
“It’s a really great community; everyone gets to know and support everyone,” Woody said. “You only want everyone to do good. We’re all in this together, so why not support something that is healthy and supports your local economy?”
Robin and Woody enjoy coming to Davis in particular for the opportunity to interact with a very knowledgeable and supportive community.
“I love that everyone rides bikes, wants to be healthy, and exercises,” Robin said. “People really take care of themselves. And I love how people are genuinely interested in learning.”
Robin said she and her daughter enjoy answering questions from Davis customers about the honeybees and different ways to cook with honey.
“I feel like as much as they learn from me, I learn from them,” Woody said. “They always come and tell me that they’ve used a honey for this and this and that, and I love that, because I’m learning new ways to sell my product. It’s wonderful hearing how they’re using the product in such great ways, and that they’re being creative. I’m glad that the community has welcomed us with open arms — we’re very thankful for that.”
Pure All Natural Honey can be found at the Wednesday Davis Farmers Market and at the UC Davis Farmers Market at the Silo.
LANI CHAN can be reached at email@example.com.