The Buzz on BeeGeorge

Being surrounded by approximately half a million bees is not necessarily on everyone’s comfort level. But that’s what happened when Chesapeake Harvest visited one of our honey suppliers, George Meyer (aka BeeGeorge.) in Oxford, MD. We were instructed to wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, but despite the almost 80-degree weather, added a winter jacket and boots for the extra protection we thought we’d need.

After BeeGeorge outfitted us in the standard beekeepers’ hat and long gloves, we watched as he lightly and bare-handedly moved a swarm to a ‘roomier location.’ As the bees noisily buzzed around us, we asked for reassurances: how many times has he been bitten, could they come through the netting to bite our face, etc. He corrected us: It’s a sting, not a bite.  Semantics. Either way, we wanted to experience neither.

We then moved into a large area containing numerous ‘wooden boxes.’ BeeGeorge’s honey is well-known in this area, but we also learned he sells starter hives to new beekeepers. Known as ‘nucs’ these fully functional small hives include a laying queen, which he explained, “We’re going to tag!”

Opening a nuc, he removed each of the five frames containing either brood or pollen. He located and removed the queen, again with no protection on his hands, put her in a special ‘cage,’ where he marked her with a small spot of paint on her back, before gently returning her to her colony.

It wasn’t too long after that we ditched the bulky gloves with the realization that everything we thought about bees had changed. Before leaving, we asked what each of us can do to protect these miraculous creatures. BeeGeorge advised:

  • Plant flowers.
  • Buy local honey.
  • Don’t spray insecticides or weed killer, if possible. But if you do—
  • Don’t spray when it’s windy.
  • Don’t spray your flowers.
  • Spray at first or last light.
  • Mow before spraying.
  • Mow but don’t kill your dandelions and clover.

Chesapeake Harvest proudly carries BeeGeorge’s honey on our online marketplace/farmer’s market of locally produced food and food-related products.

 

Food Safety For Farmers

There has never been a better time for regional farmers to implement a culture of food safety! Our collaborative outreach project with Future Harvest CASA is in full swing, with two recorded webinars and our first on-farm workshop already complete. The information from these opportunities, along with links to our Culture of Food Safety Toolkit, will be housed on the Future Harvest website. We anticipate the page going live next week, so follow us on Facebook and Instagram for up-to-the-minute news.

Our next farm workshop, “Water, Water Everwhere,” is scheduled for Monday, June 17th in Loudoun County, VA. In this session, we will conduct a water system assessment and discuss water quality requirements, including potential sources of contamination and practical strategies to reduce risks. We’ll discuss how to maintain and monitor water quality and review water testing and treatment options, demonstrate taking a water sample, and learn about different irrigation systems. We’ll be able to see on-farm examples at the Piedmont Environmental Council Community Farm at 39990 Howsers Branch Dr. Aldie, VA 20105.

This workshop is useful for established farmers and valuable for beginning farmers looking to make food-safety compliant choices.

Finally, Maryland Department of Agriculture and University of Maryland Extension are hosting a Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training for FSMA Compliance course on Monday, April 29, in Annapolis. This will be the last regional Produce Safety Rule training until after the primary growing season. Registration is open through noon on the 26th, and there are still spaces available. We recommend this training for farms of all sizes and all business models, whether compliance is mandated or not. Click here to reserve your slot.

Yes, s.c.a.p.e.s – we spelled it correctly. If you’re not familiar, don’t be surprised: this is a spring crop that rarely shows up in traditional grocery chains. Scapes are the flower stalks produced by varieties of hardneck garlic, but most commercial garlic is softneck. The former is often preferred by chefs for its larger cloves and more complex flavor profiles. The latter tends to keep better in storage, hence the higher rates of production. Picture the tall spike and little top knot on a wild onion and you’ll have an idea of how the garlic scape grows. Similar in flavor to regular garlic, but with less heat and pungency, they emerge before the full garlic heads are ready for harvest and provide us eager eaters with a range of garlic-enhancing options for our spring meals. You can grind them into pesto, grill them, slice them into salads, stir them into sautés, even pickle them. Just get them while you can, because they don’t stick around long.

More than almost any other vegetable, asparagus needs to be eaten fresh. If the option existed for us to send you out to graze directly from the field, we’d recommend that. In the absence of readily available field-to-face opportunities, you owe it to yourself and your taste buds to purchase this flavorful spring treat as close as possible to its harvest date. From the moment the delicate, green spears are cut, the sugar content begins to decline and the fibrous material increases. So, every day matters. Spear thickness is a matter of personal preference, with some folks preferring pencil thin and others index finger thick. Flavor and texture tend to remain pretty constant between sizes. You’ll find local asparagus on our platform in May and June, with some early supplies turning up now at farmers markets and farm stands. Delish offers up a helpful primer for how to cook it. Enjoy!

Photo credit “Jazz Guy”.