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Nov. 15, 2021

2021 Good Food Awards Honey Finalists (S4, E22)

Last year, we talked with The Good Food Foundation about their annual honey contest . This year, we bring you four of the 15 finalists to talk about their entries and their beekeeping operation. Winners will be announced the week of the episode’s...

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Last year, we talked with The Good Food Foundation about their annual honey contest (S3, E14). This year, we bring you four of the 15 finalists to talk about their entries and their beekeeping operation. Winners will be announced the week of the episode’s release!

Honey for the contest is entered and only compared to honeys from the region it is produced and it can be liquid, comb or infused. The honey must be entered by the beekeeper who produced it.  The judges look at how it was produced and harvested, overall animal husbandry, and is there any community engagement with bees, beekeeper and the people in their world.

First up in the episode, we have Max Kirwin, the Good Food Awards leader, who oversees all 18 committees for this contest. Joining Max is Mark Carlson, the Honey Committee chair who will share what it is they are looking for in each honey submission category. Mark was with us back in August of 2020 in our first episode with the Good Food Foundation.

We have 4 very different finalists this time. Jay Williams of Williams Honey Company and South Hall Farms, is working to build a destination luxury resort dedicated to sustainability, agricultural, culinary discovery and the circle of life. Of course, honey and pollinators play an important role to the theme.

Ethan West, of Republic of Vermont Honey Company, they manage a treatment free apiary with bees spread out over 3 counties in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and the Green Mountains.

Dustin Vanasse, along with Michael Gilbert of Bare Honey, produces honey in solar panel yards all over California. Dusty has learned the tricks of Solar Based Beekeeping, utilizing the acreages and space around these large installations to produce infused honey, using organic and local peppers for his flavoring.

Before they left, we asked each of these finalists give tips on how to get ready for next year’s competition. A whole lot of good advice in this final segment.

Think you have good honey? Then think about entering next year’s Good Food Awards.


Links and websites mentioned in this podcast: 

Honey Bee Obscura


This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement pattieswill help ensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode! 

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S4, E22 – 2021 Good Food Awards Honey Finalists


Jeff Ott:Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim Flottum:I'm Kim Flottum.

Introduction:Hey Jeff and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs.

No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of there manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at

Jeff:Hey, thanks a lot Sherry, and thank you Global Patties. You know folks, each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor’s support. You know we'd rather get right to talking about beekeeping, however our sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen from the hosting fees, to the software, to the hardware, to the microphones, to the recorders, to all of the things it takes to make a podcast happen and there is a lot. They enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast.

Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms. 2 Million Blossoms is evolving. Make sure you look at the website, find out what's going on. If you have a subscription, check up on it regularly. They're evolving to a newsletter, but the podcast continues. Check out the podcast at That is with a number two. Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We're truly happy you're here. Hey, Kim, how are you doing?

Kim:I'm doing okay. It's fall. The leaves are seriously turning, the weather is seriously cold, and the bees are seriously holed up. It's fall.

Jeff:It's definitely fall. One of the great things about fall in this time of year specifically, is all the great food that's available. I look forward to Thanksgiving. That's tradition. Everything comes together and is bountiful on the table.

Kim:Yes, I'm not a turkey fan though. I go different directions on Thanksgiving.

Jeff:Oh, so what do you do on Thanksgiving, big avocado?


Kim:We often have duck. Sometimes we have chicken, sometimes we'll have a pork loin, but turkey is just not at the top of the list for any of us. We all like these other things. You're right about food, lots of it and it's good.

Jeff:I thought your flock of ducks and chickens always thinned out a little bit this time of year.

Kim:No, I couldn't eat them. It'd be like eating a relative.

Jeff:We won't go there. Speaking of good food, I'm looking forward to today’s show. We welcome back the Good Food Foundation and the honey finalist for their honey competition.

Kim:Yes, it’s interesting today. We've got the guy who actually runs Good Food Foundation. He's going to give us an overview of how it works, and what you can do if you're interested in sending in an entry next year because this year is closed. The guy who runs the honey portion, that category is with us also. He fine-tunes what you need to do. I was looking at their webpage yesterday and there's a ton of information there. After you've listened today, and you think the stuff that gets better than anybody else's, check out their webpage and start planning now for what you're going to do next year for the Good Food Award.

Jeff:Whether it's a Good Food Award or for any show, whether it be your county fair or a national convention. Competing in a honey competition is a great educational experience. You get to learn a little bit more about preparing honey and all of the intricacies of that kind of preparation. I remember there in Medina County entering my first honey competition at Medina County Fair. I even entered a frame of bees and an observation hive. It's a great learning experience. I encourage anybody and everybody, every beekeeper to enter into honey competitions.

Kim:Yes, it makes you pay attention to what's going on between the time you open the colony and the time you put the lid on the jar.

Jeff:I did get a red ribbon, is that second place?

Kim:Yes, that second. That's because I got the blue one there.

Jeff:Did you really?

Kim Flottum:Yes, I did [laughs].

Jeff:No. I don't feel bad losing to someone winning of your caliber. That's good. You really can't say I didn't remember that.

Kim:I've got the three blue ribbons for frames of honey over the years.

Jeff:[laughs] Fantastic. I'm looking forward to the show with the Good Food Award finalist. Let's get into it. First, a quick word from my friends at Strong Microbials.

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Jeff:While you're on the Strong Microbial site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive. There’re regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey, everybody, welcome back. This is a fantastic show. I'm excited today about it. I've been looking forward to this for quite a while. We are talking to the finalists of the Good Food Awards honey competition. Kim, what do you think?

Kim:We did this before, Jeff. It was a good show last time. I'm looking forward to talking to these guys, all guys, by the way, talking to these guys about where they're from, what kind of honey they produce, how long they've been keeping bees, those sorts of things to give listeners out there a background on how do you become a winner?

Jeff:We could all use that kind of information. Our prior conversation with the Good Food Foundation was with Sarah and Mark back in August 31st 2020. That was episode 14, season three. Let's welcome into the show Max Kirwin and Mark Carlson [laughs]. Sorry about that, guys.

Kim:Yes, we've got Max Kirwin and Mark here today. Max is the-- He's the bigger picture of the Good Food Awards. He's going to give us some background on how that organization works. Mark is the honey person under the Good Food Awards. He's going to beam us down and narrow the focus a little bit. Then we've got four other beekeepers we're going to talk to. Max, tell us a little bit about the Good Food Awards.

Max Kirwin:Thanks, Kim. I appreciate the time today. At the Good Food Foundation, we exist to pretty much leverage the overlooked individuals in the food industry, particularly those who are driving to create TT authentic and responsible food in the food culture. A lot of those overlooked individuals are crafters, such as the individuals that you'll be hearing a little bit later, but also independent retailers. We work with them to leverage their small productions and get them better notice and not only our region, we’re a nonprofit based in San Francisco, California, but all throughout the United States. We focus on different regions to leverage all of their unique abilities and unique crafts.

I handle the committees for the Good Food Awards. We currently have 18 committees recognizing different food and beverages spirits, oils, and particularly honey for this case. Mark is actually one of our committee chairs. He focuses particularly on honey. I manage the overall production of the event where Mark will specifically hone in on all the techniques in sorting and organizing of the honey category.

Kim:All right. Then, Mark, tell us about the honey category.

Mark Carlson:It's good to be with you, Kim and Jeff. I'm glad to be back. We started doing honey actually, Kim you were involved in some of the early years at around 2014 the honey category was initiated in the Good Food Awards. There was a solid group that we started with, and we pioneered some of the criteria, some of the requirements for our submissions, and then ever since then, I've been working in and out either as a committee member or as a volunteer. It's always a lot of fun and there's always a lot of really interesting honeys that come from all around the country. Part of it is based on, in addition to some of the criteria that we, The Good Food Awards, is celebrating and promoting, the methods by which we're doing the evaluation, it parallels a lot of other honey competitions.

That sensory analysis, the ways by which we're tasting the honey is similar to how most folks are familiar, but it also is a lot of fun to be working with some local judges. We got through the pandemic together and had some of our tasting remotely. It was another good year, and we're looking forward to another one coming up.

Jeff:That must have been a challenge with the pandemic and the tasting. That's part of the fun of the competition, is everyone getting together and everyone's seeing displays.

Mark:You got it, Jeff. In addition to the criteria, in order to focus on some of the missions of The Good Food Foundation, the ways in which we taste together, there's always going to be some guidelines, and some people might do it slightly differently, but when we're all together as a group, it really adds a lot.

Kim:Mark, real quick, if I wanted to, and I know it's too late this year, but if I want to enter The Good Food Awards with my honey next year, in three quick steps, what do I have to look for? What do I have to do to make sure that my entry makes it at least as far as the contest?

Mark:Sure. The guidelines are written up on the website, and anybody who would want to go through them in detail, I'd encourage that. Maybe just the overarching summary might be that, the general standard might be that anyone who submits an entry has to be the beekeeper, and they have to have a label, so that follows in parallels to maybe the cottage industry standards for just food, sanitary and regular production.

Then Good Food Awards and Good Food Foundation also is highlighting various production and harvest methods and then also some animal husbandry priorities, which I think are, again, they parallel what Max started and said about how there are some underlying producers and the ways in which the craft can be done at a small scale is also really interesting. Some of those criteria are allowing the submissions to be highlighting that area in particular.

Kim:I've looked at your webpage, and I agree that you have excellent instructions on your webpage, so if anybody's interested in doing this next year, start now by going to the web page, and that'll be on our show notes. Right, Jeff?


Kim:Go to the web page. Take a look at the rules and regs and suggestions. Now's the time to start. Mark, there's four beekeepers here with us today. Do you want to introduce one of them and tell us a little bit about what's going on from his part of the world?

Mark:I'll start with Ethan then because I grew up in Northern New York, I sure enjoyed the fall season and also the spring season. My mother actually keeps her honeybees in Northern New York still and she just winterized the hives. As something I could say as far away from coastal California doesn't remind me too much of northern New York. Ethan has, in addition to some of his honey production, he also celebrated, I think some elements of the maple were also included in some of his submissions as well. Maybe I'd pass the torch to him and thank him for his submissions.

Ethan West:Thank you. My name's Ethan West. I run Republic of Vermont with my wife Amina, and our two little kids here. We're in Goshen, Vermont, which is in Addison County, Champlain Valley area of Vermont, which is a great beekeeping area. We submitted several products. We run a maple sugaring operation as well as an apiary. We tap about 7,000 trees, produce maple syrup, organic certified maple syrup, and treatment-free honey, running about 100, 120 hives, depending on the year.

We also raise overwintered nukes mostly for our own uses, and we raise queens, overwintered northern queens. We submitted this year, we actually won last year from our wildflower honey. That was super exciting. Then this year, we submitted our honeycomb, which is our take on comb honey, where we're actually it's similar to Mason Jar beekeeping, we put the jar upside down on top of the hive and allow the bees to build the comb inside it and begin to fill it with honey and then we backfill it with our honey back at the honey house.

It creates this individual product, a work of art for people who've never seen a beehive, never interacted with bees. The reaction is pretty astounding that they can actually see the comb. It's a glass jar. That's what this year that we're a finalist for.

Jeff:Now, you said Goshen is that northern Vermont, middle Vermont?

Ethan:Central Vermont. We're actually off on the side of the Green Mountains. The Champlain Valley is the biggest agricultural area in the state and it's well known in New England as one of the best places to keep bees. It's very crowded with commercial beekeepers and hobbyists, so it's an interesting place.

Kim:I'm thinking Ethan, that with all of those trees and all of those hives and all of the things that you're doing, do you get any sleep between January and December?

Ethan:Yes, this is our off time except we ship all of our products, and the holidays are our biggest shipping time. We have two little kids, so it's not really an issue of sleep, but we're never getting sleep.

Kim:I can believe it. Sounds good. I wish I could taste some of this, it would be a real treat. The technique that you use is really special. I'm envious of your skill and your ability to do that.

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Kim:Mark, who's next?

Mark:Sure. Maybe I'll just touch on one or two things here. I'd state that the primary method of evaluation doesn't involve so much of a visual aspect, but I can confirm in fact that Ethan's product was a work of art, it's really a beautiful thing to see how the bees will craft the comb inside of the jar, and gives that all that unique texture and unique shapes that are really special. It's unfortunate, we haven't quite figured out how we would incorporate that in as in a presentation element because we do a blind tasting. We don't spend much time thinking about how the presentation of the jar or the wax in the jar.

Before I touch off again, I'd say the other interesting thing is that our honey category does include a liquid, a comb honey category, and in addition to that, an infused honey category. In addition to the geographic highlight that the Good Food Foundation is celebrating, the honey category does also try and allow for those that are producing both specialty comb honey, to have its own category and path for the ribbon. We don't get as many comb honey submissions as we get liquid honey submissions, but again, they're fantastic and attractive in all kinds of different ways. I thank Ethan for that. That was our only jar that we got like that this year, and it sure was impressive.

Kim:It was impressive. Who else you got up here, Mark?

Mark:How about Jay, could I direct to you and just have you introduce yourself and go into your honey?

Jay Williams:Yes, for sure. I'm Jay Williams, and I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me on. It's a huge honor to be a finalist. I don't know if you guys will talk much about it, but I've been involved with the Good Food Awards. Actually, we've submitted four times. We've won twice before and I'm looking for the trifecta this year, hopefully, we'll get lucky and the skies will open up and we'll get our award. It's a really big deal for us to be a finalist this year.

I'm currently the pollination program manager for a place called South Hall Farms. We're just south of Nashville, Tennessee. It's a 325-acre farm, it's a project we've been working on for literally five years now behind the scenes, it's set to open this coming summer. It's a return to traditional Southern hospitality. It's a luxury farm-based resort where we've been planning on the apiary setups and the production fields and these cottages that we're building into the size of the mountains. Literally, it all works together.

I hate to use the term circle of life, but it's literally like trying to put it all together. Bees, they literally touch every aspect of this property. We try and be a luxury destination for pollinators in addition to humans, and the chance to have our honey be recognized on a national scale, it's a huge, huge win for us just to get this far. It's a big deal this year. It's been a big deal in the past to be involved, but I'm super proud, as we all are of this year's vintage. It's amazing. I'm amongst a bunch of foodies, so I can talk about there's a beginning, a middle, and an aftertaste to this year's honey. We had an amazing locust bloom, we had a great basswood bloom for an extended extra sweet aftertaste.

Those things, to be able to be recognized in this sort of a platform, and how people really appreciate all the effort and time and skill it takes to come up with this quality product, it means a huge deal to all of us and I'm just tickled just to have gotten this far.

Jeff:Very cool. How many bees do you run there at South Hill Farm?

Jay:At South Hill Farms, we ran about 40 colonies. We also run a fairly decent healthy Mason bee breeding program, and we use leaf cutters in the summertime to boost our production and the production fields. Then we also support a lot of native bee habitats around the area. Hopefully soon, we'll add butterflies to the mix, but we'll see if we got time.

Kim:Jay, the honey that you entered this year, it is a blend of season-- A seasonal blend I should say of several different kinds?

Jay:Correct, yes. I said I wouldn't or promise myself I wouldn't release all of our secrets, but really in the end, what it is is we harvest about July 5th. July 5th in the beekeeping world you all know, you get the whole floral package altogether. We are not really into harvesting every three weeks or every month to get that varietal taste. Instead, we try and get the whole kit and caboodle. By harvesting in my are at least, around just after July 4th, you're able to capture all those different floral senses and taste and everything else depending on the year obviously, and capitalize on that. That's enabled us to partner with chefs locally. We have an amazing chef that's in charge of South Hill Farms. He's world-renowned.

We're able every single year to take this honey and say, "Okay. What can you pair this with? What can we make an amazing dinner with this year's vintage?" We been able to do that behind the scenes every year that we'd been playing around. Again, we're excited to come out in the public and say, "All right, here we are. Let's get this thing going. Let's really get our name out there and this honey out there." and our whole ecosystem out there as an example of what you can do on a small scale, and make big differences.

Kim:Mark, is there something you wanted to add here?

Mark:Sure. Thanks, Kim. Jay, I really celebrate your description of the holistic elements of your work, and how the Good Food Foundation also puts that in as a highlight. There is a requirement that there is some community engagement, and I did the Peace Corps in 2005. I've been doing quite a bit of outreach in San Francisco, and I think that there's a lot of value to it. I certainly acknowledge and appreciate that being something that Good Food Foundation continues to highlight. Jay, it sounds like you got it. You got not only recognition with a potential product, but also a community around you. In addition to an ecosystem, you got a community of folks that might take some casual interest in the production that you're doing, or folks who are staying on the property. The opportunity for outreach seems like it's there and I'm glad that that will continue to go into the-- As we get more submissions in the future. That seems like a great and valuable element of the program.

Jay:Thank you.

Kim:Yes. I was going to say, Jay, I've done not nearly as much as some people, but I've done enough honey casing in my life to know that the subtle effects of say locust. You mentioned locust. I can pretty much tell a locust . What I like about a seasonal wildflower, is probably a good name for it, is that you've got like you said, all of those flavors. If you take your time when you're tasting, a lot of times you can tickle out each of those flavors a little bit. You end up with a medley of much-- I'm not going to say much better, but much richer honey. It sounds like you did a good job. What else you got with you, Mark?

Mark:We have Michael and Dustin. Maybe Michael, if you don't mind starting it off. You know the honey maybe a bit more than the bees, and that could be my intro for you.

Michael Gilbert:Yes, certainly. Thanks so much, Mark. Appreciate it. Again, it's such an honor to be here and be amongst a great list of finalists. We're just thrilled. My name is Michael. I'm from Clif Family. We're located out in Napa Valley in St. Helena, which is right in the heart of Napa Valley. Our focus is making quality premium products with an emphasis on sustainable ingredients that sustain the planet and the community.

When the Good Food Awards come around each year, we always look towards our solar-grown honey line as items that we want submit because it's such a cool story. I think it's one of the things everyone makes us unique and we're just super excited about it. When you say solar-grown honey, what we mean by that is, we're taking honey from bee populations that live on solar fields. The lands that's under and around the solar panels are planted with natively flowering plants. It really makes a double use of the land. It helps plants underneath. Help cool the solar panels to make them more efficient, and also help with drainage, and it's just a really great project all around. That's what we mean when we say solar grown.

Obviously, the product that we get is just a beautiful product to hear from our friends at Bare Honey with Dustin. He can certainly speak to more of the beekeeping aspects of it. All of the honey that we use are raw honey which we were fortunate enough to win a Good Food Award with last year. It's in all of our spreads, in our new hot honey and it's just a very exciting line, and we're just thrilled to share it with everybody. Dustin, I'll let you take it from a beekeeping perspective.

Dustin Vanasse:Yes, definitely. Thank you, and it's been such a pleasure to work with The Good Food and everyone at Clif Family. It's been an amazing thing. A lot of us concentrate on the beekeeping portion of this. They're helping spread the mission of what we're trying to accomplish. The term for this is all Agrivoltaics, which is a wonky term that we-

Jeff:Wait. Say that again.

Dustin:Agrivoltaics, it's combining agriculture, Agri, and Voltaics. Photo Voltaics, right?

Jeff:That's good. I just want to make sure that's clear for our transcribers.

Dustin:This is an exciting mission that we've had. When we started our company, we started our company with the idea that we wanted to give back and battle the causes and raise awareness of the decline of honeybees and pollinators across the globe. About five years ago, we were approached by The Center for Pollinators in Energy to work with them on this project. Develop pollinator habitat on solar farms or solar arrays across the country.

My background is that we started our company in 2010, and have been growing it ever since. It started off as just a hobby. When I was a chef, I went out to a farm that had some bees on it, and they showed me what was inside the hive. From the minute they opened that hive, I knew I was in love, and I knew that I was going to start a new direction in my life. We started just as a hobby at five hives the first year, and then we had 15, then we had 20. Now, we run over 800 hives. It just keeps growing every year. The demand for our hives being placed on solar arrays has increased so much that now we've started bringing hives down to Florida, which is where I am right now to expand and split populations so we can bring more hives back up north, and have more hives on solar arrays across the U.S.

That's what we're doing at this point. The really cool parts of this project is that, it's created an ecosystem of businesses that are very disparate energy production and agriculture. In combining together for mutually beneficial externalities, and that we're trying to-- The externalities of this isn't the smog and the polluted environment that's coming out coal powerplants and gas powerplants. The externalities of our energy production with the solar plants is pollination and habitat preservation. The farms that are surrounding there are pollinator-dependent on the surrounding, the photo-voltaic fields are also benefiting from the pollination services that our bees are providing while they're on there. As well as the embedded pollination services for the native bees that are benefiting from the habitat.

It's a no-till system. The land underneath the photo-voltaic panels isn't being tilled up, which is great for ground nesting bees. We've started incorporating pastured grazing for sheep on the sites as well, and really creating this ecosystem of beneficial businesses. The industry term for it is Mutually Stacking Environmental Benefits. At the end of the day, what we're doing is creating a brighter, sweeter, cleaner future for tomorrow. The product that we've been developing with Clif Family and there's a finalist of the year, the Cacao and Cobanero chili. It has additional benefits as well. Michael can talk to you about the sourcing of the ingredients that are very particular to source from sustainable family farms across the globe to create this combination of socially driven and environmentally mission-driven products that are combining together to create just deliciousness. Making it easy for people that taste-- Making it an easy choice for folks to try to do better for the world.

Jeff:That's very cool. We've had numerous guests on talking about the availability of the solar panel fields and taking advantage of those as a source for native bees and for honey production. It's fun to hear your story about how you are actually doing that and making it happen and being recognized for it through Good Food Awards.

Dustin:It's been a great journey. I've learned so much about energy production. There's an immense amount that goes into the production of energy, and getting it from the sun to our house. It's been amazing to also to help be at the forefront of creating this ecosystem that's really going to change the way that we produce energy and create a better world for our kids in the future.


Kim:I was going to say, I was going to add to that Jeff, the State of Ohio, many midwest and east coast states are beginning to look at developing more solar and sometimes issues arise on access and fencing and those things and it sounds like you've solved all of those or most of those issues. If there's somebody that's listening, that's got a solar array is going to go up in the next year or so next door, or just down the road, you might want to take a look at how California is doing this because they seem to have solved the problem.

Dustin:I would encourage them also, Kim to reach out directly to me so working with Pace University over the last year, we've developed a template for a solar contract to help the relationship, make it more predictable on how the relationship between a solar company and a farmer can work, and so they can definitely reach out to me. We've put a lot of work into this and have figured out good ways in which we can all interact together for a mutual, beneficial end.

Kim:Jeff, we'll have to get that in the show notes on how to contact these people.

Jeff:Yes. All the panelists or all the guests on today have their guest profiles available on our website. You can find those by clicking on the show notes and each guest has their own individual profiles, so all those contact information and social media presence, that's all identified.

Kim:You make it easy, Jeff.

Jeff:We try, that's our job.

Kim:Well Mark, what have we missed?

Mark:All right. I heard earlier the hot honey that this idea of the infusion is when we're doing our tasting and we're doing this evaluation, we have to set the liquid honey apart from these infusions, because some of them are just fantastic and then there's their diversity of what the judges' pallet have to detect and so hot honey has been a fun theme of the last year. We've got a couple of them in this year. Michael, you did, or maybe I heard that Michael you can speak a little bit about some of the other- and those that are interested, please visit the good food board website. There are some specific guidelines on how the infusions should be. The other ingredients should be sourced and so with that said, I love hot honey. I think it's such a fun idea, and Michael, if you don't mind going a little bit more into that.

Michael:Yes, absolutely. The hot honey it's absolutely ridiculous. It's so delicious. Put it on your pepperoni pizza, it's amazing. It has a plethora of uses, but the really special part about that is that we were lucky enough to partner with the fine folks at Burlap & Barrel for these spice blends and peppers and chili peppers. These are all single-origin spice blends. Everything is super traceable. It goes down to individual family farms across the world where we source these either cacao powder or the Cobanero chilies or the ginger and cinnamon that we use.

It not only makes a delicious product which is great for multiple uses, culinary cheese boards, you name it. You can feel good about eating it because you know that everything is sourced the right way and people are being treated the right way. We think that the spreads are just terrific. The hot honey we steep those Cobanero chilies in the hot honey for a period of weeks, and it just makes this beautiful color, and it's just one of the most exciting products that we have yet, so we're thrilled.

Kim:Sounds wonderful.

Dustin:Thanks, I have my formal evaluation of the honey, and then we get to try it off with the neighbors or with other friends and everybody-- I get such positive reviews from some of the infusions. It's such a fun way to expand the audience of the product. I think it's really well done.

Michael:Thank you so much.

Kim:I've made infused honey over the years with this and that, but I got to tell you, I don't think food should hurt, so I'm not sure about making it with really hot peppers.

Jeff:Spoken like a true Ohio and I can tell you, my family thinks spicy ketchup is hot so that's-


Dustin:Well, one of the great things about the Cobanero chilies is that they don't have a very high Scoville unit. They have enough spice to be able to make it so that you know that it is spicy. It's more that these really interesting flavor profiles that the chili itself lends to the honey and the combination between the smokiness that honey naturally has and the chilies. It's really interesting.

Kim:I've heard that before. [laughs] and I was surprised every time but, it does sound good and it's an art and a science to make infused honey, the time and the different peppers that you produce or that you use and so I'm impressed. It sounds good.

Jeff:We're coming up close to the end of the show, but we've not talked a whole lot about beekeeping which we have all this knowledge here and experience. I want to make this fun. I'm going to do a fast round. I want to just go around the beekeepers and say if you had-- Let's make it one. One hint on beekeeping tip for competition, what is it? I'll let you think about it for a second before I call anybody. You have a beekeeper sitting out there listening to the podcast, and they're thinking, "Man I really want to get into this competition sounds like lots of fun." maybe even try for the good food awards. What is your pro tip for them? All right. Time's up. I'm going to just go to-- Mark, do you want to lead this off?

Mark:I sure celebrate that- and I know Kim does as well, the various nectar sources of the region is a fun way and Jay alluded to this too, that sometimes once you get an idea of what those various blooms are doing and all the audience that are beekeepers, we all know this well and how those various complimentary profiles can fit together. I still like to distill it down to some of the initial flavors that are coming from specific nectar sources and how those can work together, they can work by themselves. I'm a big fan of dialing into my local blooms, my local nectar.

Jeff:We got Mark's vote is for consider your varietal honeys and local honey.

Mark:Or single source if you can be so lucky.

Jeff:Yes. All right. I'm going to go, I got the screen here across zoom so in no particular order, other than what zoom selected Jay, how about yourself?

Jay:How much pressure? I will say enter early and often. I was hesitant to-- Back in the day, I was hesitant to submit my honey because I thought "I'm competing against the national scale of beekeepers here. How can my honey from little old Nashville Tennessee compete?" I'll say that something I really liked that I learned along the way, is that the way the judging and the competition is set up, luckily I get to compete against my region. I believe there's five regions. I get to compete against my region rather than compete against honey from Hawaii. I think I can give Hawaii a good run for their money, but I would rather compete against my locals here and once I got over that, I was like, "This is amazing,

this is great." I feel like it's more fair and it's logical it makes a lot of sense to me. I will never forget. Again I entered on a whim. I got in, I was accepted and it was 2017 and I participated in a good food awards market deal, where you get to basically show your stuff and sell your product the weekend of the awards, which was amazing.

Again, little old Jay shows up in San Francisco with my suitcase of honey jars and I also brought honey vials that year. We make honey vials that say, love is sweet on the side. They're a little cocked vial. I put them out on a table and again I'm a small mom and pop operation at that point, and I'll never forget secretly Williams Sonoma came by my booth and took a picture of my heart-shaped vials all lined up on the table and within literally four hours, my honey vials were broadcast to a gazillion followers. Thanks to Williams Sonoma. I don't know how many, but to me, it was like a zillion followers. It was an example of like, "You know what? If you hadn't just taken this chance and jumped in here, you never would be in San Francisco with your honey on a grand scale." It was just a great experience. That's what I would say, jump in there and just do it.

Jeff:Thanks, Jay. Ethan, how about you?

Ethan:Yes. That's all great advice. I would say just from our perspective, just trying to heat the honey as little as possible when you're extracting it and bottling it ,we try don't heat the honey at any stage, and I think that goes a long way to preserving the flavor and obviously, it'll crystallize, but that's one of the main things we've done is just try to keep the honey as pure as possible coming out of the comb to going into the bottle and going to the customer.

Jeff:Okay, so that's keeps the heat low or no heat?

Ethan:Yes, we use no heat. All our pumps are geared real low and bottling. We have a pump for bottling and takes a little longer, but it preserves the flavor for us.

Kim:Ethan, what about straining filtering? What do you do with that?

Ethan:We have a large sump that has several baffles in it. We basically allow the honey to flow through there. We do keep the honey house at 78 degrees, 80 degrees. It's pretty warm, but it's a large enough baffle system that almost all the wax and impurities are caught with the three baffles and then we let it settle in the tank, so any stuff that got through sits for 24 hours and the wax rises to the top, and then we don't bottle it all the way down.

Kim:Mark, then one of the attributes of an entry, is it crystal clear?

Mark:Correct. Yes. The idea that there will be a natural crystallization and the Good Food Awards does advise, does require that submissions are processing with minimum heat. I think they say with minimal heat, let's say 100 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit is their threshold. Then the filtration, great question, I believe there might be-- I don't want to guess wrong, but there's a specific micron size for the filter. The idea would be that it would be keeping some of the pollen. You're not filtering at such a level that you're removing any of those other small elements.

If that did potentially provide a little bit more of a crystallization scene source, I think that's part of the process, a part of what we're looking for. I think you said it well, Ethan, trying to keep a real pure product is something that we're trying to highlight. I'm sure that comes across in some of the finals, it's a cleaner flavor, a better flavor, and celebrating that particular honey.

Kim:That's good to hear. All right.

Jeff:Dusty, how about you from a beekeeping standpoint?

Dusty:I would say that you learn from your bees and work together. The beehive is an egalitarian society that is working together for the mutual benefit of everyone. I think the way I run my business and the way that I see the world is that we all need to work together for a better world in the end. We're not doing it alone. The bees don't do it, one bee at a time, and we can all work together to make this a better world together.

Kim:There you go.

Dusty:[crosstalk] change.

Jeff:Michael, do you have anything to add from a preparing and competition standpoint?

Michael:As you know, the Good Food Award is the gold standard. When I'm thinking about this, I always know you're just going up against the best of the best. We just always think of our solar grown line in particular, and if we have a new product, that certainly always helps. We lucked out with the hot honey coming out this year, but just something that's interesting, and something that will just add to your experience, whether it be cheese board, glazed carrots with the hot honey, or the ginger honey, culinary application, or simply just taking it out of the jar with a spoon and enjoying it.

That's always how I think about it is, "What would I most enjoy if I was looking on the Good Food Awards," or if I was looking to the pop-up shop and something that's going to grab your eye. We're just so much great competition that's always a big consideration. That's why I always gear towards the honey products. It's just a special place in my heart if we really do appreciate the line and all the work that goes into it, and the partnerships that we get out of it.

Jeff:I like the sound of ginger honey, and it sounds real good.

Michael:It's good. It's also got a little spice too, so so much [crosstalk]

Jeff:I like it. I like it a lot. All right. Kim, anything else before we let these guys get back to their work?

Kim:I just want to close with one thing, Clif, I'm hungry.


Clif:Come on down. If you come over to Napa Valley.

Kim:Okay. No, this has been fun, Jeff. We did it before and I hope we can do it again in the future. Gentlemen, you were all excellent. Congratulations on making it as far as you've made it and good luck.


Jeff:You're worthy of your own episode. I'm glad to have had the pleasure of meeting y'all today. Thanks.

Michael:Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Jeff.

Ethan:Thank you so much.

Jay:Thank you.

Jeff:It was really fun having those guys on the show talking about what they're doing for the competition. I've always liked honey competitions, and this was a big one.

Kim:I think there's two things of value to me came in, there is each had a different perspective on what was most important to get the best honey sample and you put them all together and you got some really good advice. Then the thing with the solar arrays, I know Ohio's putting in a bunch of them this coming year and they're not talking about what they're going to do with the land around them. It gets to be an issue with fences and damage and weeds and what have you. I'll be interested in following up on that too, to give beekeepers out here. It's fun listening to him and I learned a lot just how do you get ready for Good Food Award with honey sample?

Jeff:It used to go to the American Beekeeping Federation and their honey shows were a big thing and talking to all the beekeepers entering those and just the preparation and attention to detail, it's a whole other realm of beekeeping that you can get swallowed up by. Doing the Good Food Awards and what these guys were doing, especially in the midst of all the COVID protocols and having to ship things in. I don't know, kudos to him for one doing it and two for making it as a finalist.

Kim:They were good. They all sounded really good. I'm going to take them up on being a judge out there one year.

Jeff:Yes. I think you should.


Jeff:All right. About to wrap it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly on our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage.

As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties, check them out at We want to thank Strong Microbials for the support of the podcast. Check out their probiotic line at

We want to thank Betterbee for being our supporter. Check out all their great beekeeping supplies at Finally, we want to thank you the Beekeeping Today podcast listener for joining us today on this show. Feel free to send us questions and comments at questions at We'd love to hear from you. Anything else, Kim?

Kim:Well, you mentioned questions and comments. We've been getting quite a few comments lately and it's good to have, keep it up to help us do a better job.

Jeff:Thank you, folks. I think I'm going to go try to find some ginger honey.

Kim:Okay. Take it easy, guy.

Jeff:Thanks, everybody.

[outro music]

[00:47:37] [END OF AUDIO]

Mark CarlsonProfile Photo

Mark Carlson

R&D Chemist

Mark graduated with the inaugural class of 2016 California Master Beekeepers. He also served in the Peace Corps in El Salvador from 2005 to 2007 and kept Africanized honey bees as part of his agriculture/forestry extension work. Mark currently works as a Senior R&D Chemist at a small, private laboratory and he is interested in honey testing, especially identification of unique nectar sources.

Mark's bee-related outreach involves mentoring new beekeepers, teaching introductory beekeeping classes, presenting at beekeeping associations, volunteering at pollinator-themed public and school events, writing blog articles and collaborating on various honey-related committees (e.g. Good Food Awards).

Since the first year of the Good Food Awards Honey Category in 2016, he has contributed as a committee chair, committee member or volunteer.

Dustin VanasseProfile Photo

Dustin Vanasse


Dustin Vanasse attended the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Sciences, obtaining a B.S. from the College of Continuing Education in 2010 with concentrations in Applied Economics and Entrepreneurial Management.

While attending the U of M Dustin launched Bare Honey, achieving a foothold in the market by developing a line of novel honey spreads.

Bare Honey has since become and industry leader in Solar Based Beekeeping, a production practice that pairs solar energy production and agriculture. His work within this regenerative agriculture system has lead to speaking engagements and consulting for energy developers leading the industry towards a triple bottom line that maximizes environmental benefits while increasing both energy and agriculture yields.

Jay WilliamsProfile Photo

Jay Williams

Pollination Program Manager/CEO/Speaker

Jay has been working in and around pollinators for the past 15 years. He owns Williams Honey Farm, LLC and also serves as the Pollination Program Manager for Southall Farms based in Franklin, TN.

Southall is a luxury farm-based resort dedicated to sustainable practices, culinary discovery and showcases weekly guided apiary tours, honey tastings, native bee experiences, and leadership seminars based on Lessons from the hive.

Jay’s bees have won 3 Good Food Awards and been featured in multiple national media outlets. When not outside working his bees, Jay spends his time inside daydreaming about ways he can get back outside and raise more queens!

Ethan WestProfile Photo

Ethan West


Ethan West runs Republic of Vermont with his wife Annina and their family in Goshen, Vermont. Along with a large maple sugaring operation, they manage a treatment free apiary with bees spread out over 3 counties in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.

Every drop of syrup and honey is packaged in glass and shipped by hand from their production facility on the family property perched on the side of the Green Mountains.

Michael GilbertProfile Photo

Michael Gilbert

Wholesale Account Manager

Clif Family was founded by Gary Erickson & Kit Crawford in 2004 in St. Helena, California to focus on making high quality wines and small batch food products that sustain the natural resources of the local community and bring awareness of organic and sustainable farming to others.

At Clif Family we’re guided by our values. We call them our Five Aspirations – Sustaining Our Business, Our Brands, Our People, Our Community and Our Planet. This means growing a healthy company; maintaining the integrity of our brands; taking care of our employees; supporting the communities where we live and work; and working to reduce our ecological footprint in everything we do.

Our Solar Grown honey is one of our most exciting projects yet! The honey we use for our Solar Grown products, including our Good Food Award finalists (Cacao Honey Spread & Cobanero Hot Honey) are harvested from hives located on pollinator-friendly solar farms. The energy that solar farms capture from the sun creates many positive benefits for our planet and our communities. Planting pollinator-friendly habitats under these solar farms contributes to a meaningful and positive difference for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

My name is Michael Gilbert, I am the Wholesale Account Manager here at Clif Family and have been with the team since Fall of 2018!

Max KirwinProfile Photo

Max Kirwin

Committee Chair Manager

After graduating from SUNY Buffalo State with a B.S. in Forensic Chemistry, Max pivoted to the restaurant industry, ultimately applying his education to the world of food and beverage. In 2015, with a growing passion for food culture and how it influences people and their community, their overall wellbeing and relationships with others, he jumped from one coast to the other. The last 6 years have been spent working in the California olive oil industry, most recently overseeing a quality assurance program. He has cherished discovering the bounties that the California landscape has to offer and taking every opportunity to learn and taste along with the producers and crafters of the golden state. His free time is ideally spent at the local farmers market, checking off places on his never-ending list of restaurants, breweries and wineries to experience, and when he isn’t filling his belly, he is likely hiking or spending time with his partner, friends and two dogs, Bengal and Cali.