Sunday, June 6, 2021

A Day at the Bee--I Mean, Honey Farm

When the Embassy Community Liaison Office (CLO) announced they were arranging a trip to a local honey farm, I immediately signed up! I love honey, but I'd never been to a honey farm before. When I tried convincing my friend N to join me though, she replied that "honey farm" was just a euphemism for "bee farm" and that she would not be attending. She was right, because this trip is not for anyone who is scared of bees or insects!

The honey farm we went to is called 최은명 자연꿀 치유체험농장 (translation: "Choi Eun-myeong Natural Honey Healing Experience Farm") and is considered a "city" honey farm because the bees are kept on the roof of the building instead of out in a field. It's a family farm that is in the process of being passed down to the third generation - how cool is that? As Seoul expands and Korea becomes more urban, these types of agribusinesses are increasing. It seems to work well, and it gives city dwellers more opportunities to experience nature and agriculture. We got a quick briefing on how the farm works and learned about the importance of bees to the environment. The owners also talked about the natural health benefits of honey and we all tested our stress levels using a finger pulse device. I was shocked to see my stress levels were so low and healthy, but maybe that's because I just had so much fun at the farm.

We had to suit up to go to the beekeeping area, and although the outfits weren't particularly stylish or flattering they did the job and protected us. Once appropriately attired, we followed the owners upstairs to the roof. They waved around mugwort smoke to calm the bees down and then opened up one of the boxes so we could see the bee colony inside. They had 100 boxes of 10,000-50,000 bees each, and it was amazing to see! I learned all sorts of new things about bees and saw a real queen bee for the first time.

The worker bees live about 45 days, but the queen can live for 4-5 years. They're all born from the same type of egg, but there is only one queen per colony. She lays 2,000-3,000 eggs per day, so I guess that's what keeps the numbers up given the low lifespans of her workers. I also learned that male honey bees don't have stingers, so I even got to hold one in my hand. It wasn't scary at all since I knew he couldn't sting me.

Our honey farm tour also included a few DIY projects. We worked together in groups to make all-natural shampoo, which involved a surprising number of interesting ingredients (like silkworm dust!) and some arm strength given an extended period of time stirring the mixture as it thickened. Next, I and a few others made beeswax candles. I fell in love with these adorable candles especially because they were made to look like three different versions of kimbap (김밥, the Korean version of sushi): regular kimbap, "nude" kimbap (with the rice on the outside), and egg kimbap (with a layer of egg on the outside).

We couldn't leave the honey farm without tasting some honey, so we got to try rice cakes with two types of honey. I've never combined rice cakes with honey before, but what a delicious combo! Interestingly, the two honey samples came from the same bees, but they tasted totally different. The lighter one was produced during acacia season when those flowers dominated the bees' diet, while the darker one was from a different season when the bees fed on a mix of wildflowers instead. My favorite was the acacia honey, but both were amazing and packed full of unique flavor that set them apart from the honey sitting in my pantry at home.

Bees are such an important part of our ecosystem, but I (like most consumers) rarely think about them. A honey farm trip is a great way to learn more about these amazing creatures and to enjoy the wonderful products they make possible. (The whole experience also reminded me of a novel I read years ago and loved dearly called The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I cannot recommend that book highly enough.) If you're interested in learning more about beekeeping, check out the Barnyard Bees Youtube channel or visit your local honey farm. Hopefully your experience is as sweet as mine was!

No comments:

Post a Comment