A Taste of Honey

by Myra Saturen
November 05, 2013

When hives of honeybees were introduced to Northampton Community College's East 40 CommunityThe winning label Garden in May 2012, one of the goals included the production of honey.  A project begun by Sharon Zondag, former NCC planned and major gifts officer, the colony consisted of 250,000 bees in four hives.  Honey was harvested in October 2013.

Full-flavored, thick and sweet, the NCC honey comes from bees pollinating a variety of blossoms-goldenrod, Japanese bamboo, wild aster, and clover.  This combination of sources accounts for the complex taste.  One bee produces 1/8 of a teaspoon of honey in its five-week lifetime. 

Such delectable honey needed distinctive labels for its jars.  Students in Traci Anfuso-Young's and Gayle Hendricks's digital design and typography classes took on the challenge, competing in a contest to create a label.  Thirty-two entries encompassed a range of ideas.  The winner, Matthew Grier, came up with a strikingly whimsical label-a black ribbon tied around the neck of the jar, making the jar look like a tuxedo with a bowtie.      

Runners up included Charles Blanchard, Korey McNulty, Sean Tierney, and Nicole Werner. Judges were Kelly Allen, assistant professor of English and the founder of the East 40 Community Garden; Paul Joly, director of marketing; Traci Anfuso-Young, adjunct professor of art; and Sharon Zondag.  Zondag visited the class, thanked the students, talked about beekeeping and gave them the first jar to taste. 

Zondag is excited about the beekeeping project because not only is it educational and rewarding, but it draws attention to the imperiled status of bees around the world.  Bees are endangered everywhere by environmental pressure, reduced forage space, pesticides, and pests.  A bee phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, in which bees abscond affects many hives, but did not affect NCC's hives.  The fragility of hives is no less true at NCC. Typically, a beekeeper loses half of his or her hives.  NCC lost one out of its two hives last year.  Normally, one hive engenders 40 - 50 pounds of honey; this year's yield at NCC was 25 pounds. Next year there will be four - six hives, and the result is expected to be better.  

In addition to producing honey, the beekeeping project fostered interdisciplinary collaboration.  Students in biology classes participated in installing a queen bee and helped care for the hives.  The etching on the jar lid was made in NCC's Fab Lab.  All of the labels are on display in Communications Hall. 

Distribution and sales of the honey are still in the to-be-determined stage.  A lottery is being considered.  Watch NCC's website for information about obtaining a jar.  Half of the proceeds will be donated to the beekeeping program at NCC. 

For those who would like to learn how to keep bees, Zondag will be teaching two non-credit courses-Beekeeping 101, starting on May 17 and Pest and Disease Control in fall 2014.  An equipment fee for the courses will go toward purchasing protective suits for NCC students engaged in the beekeeping process.  For more information and to register call 1-877-543-0998. 


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