June 29, 2017

Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary Celebrates National Agriculture Day At Quail Brook Senior Center!

 

Allyson Toth, Manager of the Quail Brook Senior Center in Somerset, NJ with Cathy and her Mom, Gloria at the "Beekeeping Essentials" program that was offered as part of Somerset County's National Agriculture Day festivities.

Allyson Toth, Manager of the Quail Brook Senior Center in Somerset, NJ with Cathy (right) and her Mom, Gloria, at the “Beekeeping Essentials” program that was offered as part of Somerset County’s National Agriculture Day festivities.  Tara Kenyon photo.

 

Wolgast Tree Farm and Apiary was proud to be part of the celebrations around Somerset County in observance of National Agriculture Day.   March 18th was the specific day devoted to recognizing and celebrating the abundance provided by American agriculture, but the Somerset County Agricultural Development Board and the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission organized events throughout the month of March.  These events promoted the importance of agriculture in Somerset County to the local economy, healthy living through locally grown foods, and the benefits to the community through agritourism and land preservation.  Cathy, with lots of help from her mother, Gloria, contributed by offering a program on beekeeping at the Quail Brook Senior Center in Somerset, NJ on March 23rd.

Beekeeping plays a huge role in the success of American agriculture.  Honey bees are known as “the engines that drive agriculture” because of the pollination services they perform.

The strawberry on the left has been properly pollinated, while the one on the right has not.  Which one would you rather eat?

The strawberry on the left has been properly pollinated, while the one on the right has not. Which one would you rather eat?

Even if farmers have land with fertile soil and the right amount of rainfall, when there isn’t sufficient pollination (the transfer of pollen from one flower to another so that plant reproduction can occur), those flowers won’t properly develop into the fruits and vegetables that we eat, if they develop at all.

But it is honey that comes to most people’s minds when they think of honey bees.  Honey bees are the only insect to directly produce food that is eaten by people, and honey is itself an important agricultural product.  Over 300 varieties of honey are produced in the United States.  Many are a result of the pollination work done for agricultural crops, such as orange blossom and blueberry honey.

Seniors tasting the different varieties of honey that Cathy brought to the Quail Brook Senior Center as part of the beekeeping presentation in observance of National Agriculture Day.

Seniors tasting the different varieties of honey that Cathy brought to the Quail Brook Senior Center as part of the beekeeping presentation in observance of National Agriculture Day.  Tara Kenyon photo.

Cathy offered a honey tasting so folks could experience for themselves how the nectar sources that honey bees visit dictate what honey will look, smell and taste like.  She didn’t have 300 types of honey for people to try, but the five that she did have were enough for folks to understand how different – and delicious! – they each were.  People were offered tastes of orange blossom, clover, blueberry, buckwheat and a spring wildflower honey that was produced by Cathy’s bees only a few miles away from the Senior Center.

Local honey at its best!  A jar of spring wildflower honey produced by the honeybees of Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary right in Somerset.

Local honey at its best! A jar of spring wildflower honey produced by the honeybees at Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary right in Somerset.  Tara Kenyon photo.

Cathy had a variety of beekeeping items for people to examine, too.  She brought along a small beehive (minus the bees!), some tools that are commonly used in beekeeping like a smoker and veil, different forms of honey (comb honey, creamed honey, a frame of honey), and different types of beeswax products (like beeswax candles).  She also put out a variety of educational brochures for people to take with them that had information about how to tell the difference between honey bees and other stinging insects, how to react to honey bee swarms and some recipes using honey.

Cathy and her Mom, Gloria really enjoyed meeting the people at the Quail Brook Senior Center in Somerset and having an opportunity to talk about honey bees and the role they play in agriculture.  Folks had really great questions and many said that they would now think about honey bees when they visited the produce section of the grocery store or their local farmer’s market.  The Manager at the Quail Brook Senior Center, Allyson Toth, said folks talked about the beekeeping program the whole week.  All in all a great way to celebrate National Agriculture Day!

 

Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary Has Some Buzz At The State Honey Show

Earlier this month Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary participated in the New Jersey Beekeepers’ Association (NJBA) State Honey Show which was held in the State House Annex in Trenton.

Cathy was fortunate to accumulate enough points to get "Best Exhibitor" at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show which was held in the State House Annex earlier this month.

Cathy was fortunate to accumulate enough points to get “Best Exhibitor” at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show which was held in the State House Annex earlier this month.

This annual event features 23 different classes that evaluated different kinds of extracted honey, comb honey, creamed honey, mead (honey wine), honey and beeswax-based cosmetics, beeswax products like candles, and beekeeping-related photography entries from beekeepers all around the state.

People who encountered the Honey Show display were amazed by all the things that could be made with products from beehives, and they thought it was cool that these products were being locally produced right here in the Garden State.

Last year Cathy entered a few classes and even won some ribbons!  Her Extracted Light Amber Honey took 1st place as did her Creamed Honey, which not only won 1st place but won “Best of Division” as well.

This year Cathy decided to enter a few more classes and was able to accumulate enough points to earn the title of “Best Exhibitor.”  This was quite an accomplishment given that there were 125 entries and so many beautiful items.  It was an honor to be an exhibitor alongside such truly stunning competition.

Winning Best Exhibitor was a great feeling, but entering more classes than last year provided a great learning opportunity to further explore “the craft of beekeeping.”  It’s hard to understand just how much effort goes into

Cathy's Block of Beeswax not only got 1st place, but won Best of Division at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show.  It seems simple enough to make a block of beeswax (just melt beeswax and pour it in a mold, right?), but its much harder than it looks if one is trying to achieve specific results.  Avoiding cracks, discolored wax and other features that aren't desired takes a lot of care.

Cathy’s Block of Beeswax not only got 1st place, but won Best of Division at the 2015 NJBA State Honey Show.

making a beeswax candle, a block of beeswax, or preparing three jars of the same honey to exactly match each other for a particular class until one actually tries to do it.   It’s a lot of work!  In the case of extracted honey, one of the things that is evaluated is that the three jars each have to be filled to the exact same level and up to the proper location in the jars.  It’s pretty easy to mess that up, especially if your eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be!  Even when she didn’t win a particular class, Cathy enjoyed gaining further insight into the properties of honey or beeswax and the proper handling that is needed to produce high-quality products from the hive.  And just being able to participate in the show to help showcase to the general public all the beautiful things that can be made from what honey bees produce in New Jersey was a big reward in itself.

Cathy plans on entering the State Honey Show next year, but she isn’t expecting to win Best Exhibitor again.  Lightening rarely strikes twice, and the competition is simply too stiff.  And even with all the hard work that goes into it, there’s still some luck involved.

Mostly, it’s a point of pride to be part of the beekeeping community and to display all the beautiful things that can be made because of the work of the wonderful, industrious honey bee, and especially when the honey bees are from Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary.

The were all the items that Cathy entered in the State honey Show this year, except for the photo on the right which was entered by her Mother.

The were all the items that Cathy entered in the State honey Show this year, except for the photo on the right which was entered by her Mother, Gloria.

Battening Down The Hatches And The Bees!

Like everyone else across New Jersey, we’ve spent the last few days battening down the hatches preparing for Hurricane Irene at Wolgast Tree Farm.  We’ve stocked up on supplies, made sure emergency equipment is in good working order, and done our best to secure things that could become flying hazards in the impending winds.  We don’t think the severe winds and rain will present a big problem for our Christmas trees (unless a non-Christmas tree or branch gets blown onto them), but our bees are another matter.  The hives are pretty heavy, but the predicted severe winds could topple them over and expose the bees and brood to rain and wind which would likely kill the colonies. 

To guard against this Cathy used ratchet straps to help make sure all the individual hive bodies in each colony would stay together in the event the wind is able to blow them over.  If the winds are able to knock over the hives, the bees won’t be happy about it, but they’ll do better than if all the hive bodies flew apart. 

Now all we can do is settle in for the storm and hope our precautions were enough.  Hopefully we and the rest of the east coast will be able to come through the storm unscathed.  Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!

Of Bears and Bees and Electric Fences at Wolgast Tree Farm

This is not a photo of beehives in Joplin, Missouri or even beehives at Wolgast Tree Farm.   This photo was taken in nearby Bridgewater in central New Jersey after a bear destroyed an apiary. 

Most people don’t think of Bridgewater as someplace where you’d need to watch your “Ps” and “Qs” concerning bears, but bear sightings have been increasing across central New Jersey, so it’s important for everyone to learn how to minimize  conflicts with bears.

Bears can be attracted to apiaries for both honey and bee brood (baby bees still in the comb).  It has been estimated that damage by a bear to an apiary can cost $400 per hive.  It’s also emotionally upsetting for the beekeeper, and the bees don’t like it either.

An effective means of minimizing bear damage to beehives is by surrounding them with an electric fence, so earlier this month, Wolgast Tree Farm hosted a free electric fencing clinic for beekeepers. 

Greg Miller from Gallagher Fence Company gave the clinic and explained how electric fences work, how to set them up, and how to maintain them so that they’ll actually deter a bear if one attempts to get at a hive.  Handouts were also given that outlined common problems that personnel from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife have encountered when apiaries with electric fencing failed to stop bears from destroying hives. 

 All kinds of beekeepers came out to the farm and it was a delight to meet everyone.  Hopefully, the information provided at the clinic will keep everyone’s apiary “Bear-Free”. 

The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife offers a plethora of information on how to minimize conflicts with bears under a variety of circumstances (not just for beekeeping), as well as information about black bear history in New Jersey,  their biology, behavior, and more.  Visit:   http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/bearfacts.htm  to get the lowdown on these intriguing and powerful creatures of the Garden State.

Farm Tours This Summer At Wolgast Tree Farm

Would you like to visit a real working farm this summer? Wolgast Tree Farm in Somerset, New Jersey welcomes groups this summer to tour the farm.

Come out and learn about wildlife, beekeeping, how honey is made, river-friendly and sustainable farming.

Children, adults and all kinds of groups are welcome!

Call Cathy Blumig at the farm for more information  732-873-3206