One of the scariest challenges in agreeing to grow my little, seasonal, farm based business into a year-round specialty food shop at pike place, was and will be, supply of honey. There is only so much proprietary honey we can produce off less than 100 hives, and that amount has historically been divied out to weekly farmers market visits and for sale through our friends at Growing washington. With the opening of a new shop, we have a chance to sell other beekeeper's honey as well as ours, which is great because we are almost completely out of our own honey for the season.
over the years I've met quite a few gifted beekeepers in Washington state that haven't or won't sell directly to the public. There are so many overworked beekeepers that hold onto hundreds of pounds of raw honey because they focus mainly on the business of pollination. Pollination contracts bring in more money for a beekeeper than honey sales do, also the honey becomes a secondary by-product, and is typically sold off in massive bulk.
Massive. Like 600 lb barrels. I've never bought a barrel of honey before because how the hell would I deal with it? How would I move it, where would it store, how is it tipped over and drained? The infrastructure involved with barrel management is a huge investment. But the day I agreed to move into the new shop space, I new I had to build out the backend of my little business asap.
the other tremendously stressful thing I've learned is that you'd better grab the barrels of honey while they are in season, because they sell off faster than you could imagine. No one will hold something for you when there are 2-3 big businesses vying for the lot. You can't wait and decide later if you want blueberry blossom or fireweed honey because it won't be there. This year I didn't get approved for a loan through my bank, so I had to wait for an investor to swoop in and grab as much local honey as we could.
We bought three varieties of honey from different local producers, but distributed by a huge beekeeping business in skagit county. The coriander blossom was made on whidbey island, the wildflower is from Dryden, and the sweet clover/alfalfa is from ellensburg.
clayton is my old friend and former boss at growing washington. He has stepped in to invest in Sunny honey when I needed it most, thus insuring that we have enough product to last the winter, and a backend production center and farm to grow our business. So back in December, he and I visited skagit county and bought 8 barrels of honey.
We moved them on pallets to a warehouse in Nooksack, where I've been hand scooping the honey out, each week. I use a jam ladle and slowly scoop the honey into buckets, and then bottle from there. It's like colonial living and it takes forever. But sometimes hard work and sacrifice pay off over time and all of a sudden you have enough cash flow to radically modernize and make efficient your systems!! this week saw the arrival of the patented PowerBlanket that wraps around one barrel at a time and slowly heats it to 90 degrees, and our new Mann Lake EZ Fill bottling system (pics to come, I haven't been up to see it yet!)
Life is about the change for me, after years and years of hand filling each jar. I will have time now to focus on so much that has been ignored, and to grow our small but promising wholesale business. Sunny Honey has seen some radical growth in the last few months, and Couldn't be happier!!!!!