By: Kristin Evenrud, Grocery Manager
Everyone is buzzing about our newest local honey producer – Highlandville Honey Farm. This honey is beautiful, rich and golden goodness that can be eaten plain, drizzled on whatever your heart desires or to sweeten up your baking creations. The folks behind Highlandville Honey Farm are Joel and Rachel Fassbinder, their 5 year old daughter and 6 month old son.
Joel is finishing up his second season of beekeeping independently. However, beekeeping is a family business for the Fassbinders, as his dad Dave (Yellow River Apiaries) and uncle Bob (Fassbinder Apiaries) have each been beekeepers for over 30 years. Joel and Rachel know northeast Iowa well as they both grew up in the Monona/ Marquette, Iowa area. Though they have spent time living in Iowa City, St. Paul, and eastern Pennsylvania, they jumped at the opportunity to move back to northeast Iowa when Rachel was hired to teach in the Environmental Studies program at Luther. While Joel’s background is actually in geology and atmospheric science, moving back home gave him the chance to switch to a line of work that he secretly always wanted to get into, beekeeping.
Highlandville Honey Farm is located about where you would suspect, beautiful Highlandville, Iowa. Joel currently has about 100 hives in 8 different locations spread out in Winneshiek and Allamakee counties. Having the hives spread out increases the opportunity for the hives to survive. Joel has hopes to expand to about 200 hives over the next few years, bringing production to about 20,000 pounds of honey per season.
This honey is harvested raw, meaning it is unfiltered and never heated above the temperature you would find in the hive. Joel harvests this way to preserve the beneficial antioxidants, minerals,
active enzymes, and pollen that are naturally found in honey. “The comb honey is completely unprocessed – I basically take the comb straight from the hive and place it directly into containers.” (Comb honey is only available at certain times of the year.)
I asked Joel what he loves most about bees and honey. This is what he said, “I love following the progress of the hives throughout the season and the constant problem solving required to keep the hives healthy. Every day I’m asking myself things like, ‘why is this hive so energetic but this other hive so lethargic?’ or ‘why are the bees in this hive so aggressive towards me today when last week they were indifferent?’”
“Trying to figure out how the weather patterns, pest populations, and flowering cycles are affecting the honeybees at any given time allows me to live in the moment with them and that’s something I really enjoy. Also, it sure doesn’t hurt to be your own boss and work in some of the prettiest spots in northeast Iowa. The bee stings do hurt, though.”
Look for beautiful, nutritious Highlandville Honey Farm honey next time you buzz into the Oneota Co-op.