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 Visits Barack Obama Green Charter High School

Earlier this month Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary had the pleasure of visiting 9th grade students in the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield to share information about honey bees and why they are so important to people.

Cathy brought an observation hive and different types of honey when she visited with students in the Climate Change Classes at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield, NJ earlier his month.

Cathy brought an observation hive and different types of honey when she visited with students in the Climate Change Classes at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield, NJ earlier his month.

Cathy took a frame from one of her honey bee colonies and placed it in an observation hive which she brought with her to class.  It was a great opportunity for students to see some of the inner workings of a honey bee hive. Depending on what was in each individual cell of the beeswax comb they could either see honey bee eggs, honey bee larvae (baby bees), pollen or honey.  Students could watch adult bees walking around the comb to take care of the young or cleaning the comb.  For many, it was the very first time they’d ever seen a honey bee so close.

Like many people, the students weren’t aware of how dependent people are on honey bees.  Honey bees are known as “the engine that drives agriculture” because they play a vital role in the pollination of many agricultural crops.  Pollination is when pollen is transferred from one flower to another.  It’s a very important process because without it the flowers won’t properly develop into fruits, vegetables or nuts that the plants are supposed to produce.  Some of the foods that

Cathy holds up a photo of two strawberries.  The fully developed strawberry on the left has been properly pollinated, while the poorly developed one on the right was not.

Cathy holds up a photo of two strawberries. The fully developed strawberry on the left has been properly pollinated, while the poorly developed one on the right was not.

depend on pollination by honey bees include apples, oranges, strawberries, cherries, almonds, blueberries, cashews, okra, melons, cucumbers, avocados, string beans and many more.  These foods are not only tasty, but they are needed for people to help have a healthy diet.

Cathy described how bees make honey and brought along different types of honey for students to taste.  The honey tasting was a real eye-opener!  Students took coffee stirrer straws and dipped them once into samples of honey made by bees that had been nectaring on clover flowers, orange blossoms, blueberry flowers, buckwheat flowers and coffee flowers, plus some wildflower honey made by the bees at Wolgast Tree Farm and Apiary.  They were AMAZED by how different each kind of honey looked, smelled and especially how they tasted.  It was fun to watch their faces as they first tasted a mild honey like clover or orange blossom, and then something really robust like buckwheat.  Quite a difference!

Students at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School sample different kinds of honey that were made by bees that collected nectar from different types of flowers.

Students at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School sample different kinds of honey that were made by bees that collected nectar from different types of flowers.

Cathy and Len always enjoy the opportunity to share what they do at Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary with others, and the school program at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School was no different.  Visits with young people offer an opportunity to help shape the future and we are heartened by the interest they showed in this fascinating and important insect.

Many thanks to the  students and staff at Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield for opening their doors to Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary!

A student at Barack Obama Green Charter High School checks out the observation hive while she samples some honey during a school program offered by Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary.

A student at Barack Obama Green Charter High School checks out the observation hive while she samples some honey during a school program offered by Wolgast Tree Farm & Apiary.