By Kari Astrid Haugeto
Don’t you just love visiting Farmer’s markets? I’m a recent fan. Especially for the ones right here in our own town. This year, starting over Memorial Day Weekend, there were three in Andes! And I made a very unexpected find I can’t wait to tell you about.
You can probably guess from the title, but just in case I wasn’t obvious enough, sometime between visiting the brand new FoodWorks+, at the old Andel Inn, to drop off my mother’s fresh rhubarb, and treading past downtown by the Tin Horn and the Two Old Tarts, we parked across from the school to visit the Dirty Girl Farm.
There were delicious cider drinks from Fantasy Fruit Farm, savory sausages by Full Moon Farm, fresh chard, kale and radishes from Berry Brook Farm, plus more delicious pasteurized goat milk and soft cheese from the Dirty Girl. You could even visit baby goats.
But like a bear to honey, I had to stop and chat with the beekeepers.
As you may know, I’ve been working at the Andes Public Library. My job is to barcode all the books so we’ll match Four-County Library System
Plus Pam West-Finkle has taught me a few Librarian tricks to boot. At the library there is a fondness for tea with honey.
Anyway, when I introduced myself to Jennifer and Dwayne Finkle that Saturday and told her about my latest job, she said, “So you’ve met my bees!”
Hillside Honey is based near Gladstone Hollow and their hives serve as super-pollinators for our town’s hills and valleys. Honeybees will travel four miles from their hive – so if you’ve been anywhere in historic downtown you’re probably acquainted with their bees.
In fact, what started as a hobby for the Finkles in 2012 has grown into a full-fledged operation with 35 hives, some at the Hillside property and others on New Kingston Road. They collect twice a year, in the Spring and Autumn.
Oh, they collect plenty. That must be because we have so many beautiful gardens in town and farms along the gentle slopes and hillsides. Some feel they visit the library often enough to be issued their own library cards!
All kidding aside, they play a very important role in our area. Honey bees collect pollen and nectar as food for their entire colony, and as they do, they pollinate plants. Our plants depend on this. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (www.nrdc.org), “Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread seeds, many plants—including food crops—would die off.”
But it isn’t just quantity, bees also increase the quality of our food. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (www.fao.org) states “Foods richest in micronutrients such as fruits, vegetables and seeds depend on pollination. If a plant has been well pollinated, meaning that it received quite a large amount of pollen, a larger and more uniform fruit will develop. Round apples for instance, would imply sufficient pollination, whereas misshaped apples would imply insufficient or imbalanced pollination. Generally, plants put more of their resources into pollinated fruits, increasing quality and taste.”
There are so many more benefits to honey — especially locally procured honey — I won’t list them all. But I will say that Hillside Honey is delicious and makes a great gift. In Andes, you can find their honeys at the Dirty Girl Farmer’s Market every Saturday. You’re also always welcome to meander through town to catch a glimpse of their busy bees at work.
Funny enough, when I went back to the library’s kitchen, I noticed we have a very nice jar of Creamed Hillside Honey. So if you visit the library, you’re welcome to stay for a cup of tea — with honey!~