TEWKSBURY — Tewksbury Honey is participating in Mahoney’s Winter Market in Winchester, which starts this Saturday, Jan. 14. The market will run every Saturday until March 18 at Mahoney’s Garden Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This local artisan honey business is fully run by the Kelley family of Tewksbury with special help from a lot of bees.
The bees that make Tewksbury Honey are located all over Tewksbury and Andover at community gardens and fields around the two towns. Thanks to the queen bee, who lays 1,500 eggs per day in the middle of summer, their original two hives have turned into many more. With about 50 hives and a whole lot of honey — they donated 200 jars of honey to the Tewksbury Food Pantry in December on top of selling at Elia’s Country Store in Wilmington, Mirabella’s Bakery in Tewksbury, and the Salem NH farmer’s market — they plan to continue expanding to more markets in the area.
“Last year we had enough honey that we felt like we could spill some, so in the fall of 2015 we started selling,” says owner Julie Kelley, who also teaches technology integration at Wilmington High School. “The Winchester summer market has been very successful for us, and we thought the winter market would be a great way to continue in Winchester. We’re excited to see how it goes.”
Julie Kelley admits that Tewksbury Honey could not exist or sell at the winter market without the help of her children, Sean, 15, and Katheryn, 12.
She says, “It’s a fun activity to do as a family, because the kids are big helpers. They like to come help at the markets and talk to people.”
While Julie and Mike Kelley had heard about the recent decline of bees, it was their kids who sparked their interest.
“The kids came home from school one day and they were talking about the decline of bees. My husband grew up on a farm, so we just decided to try it,” says Julie Kelley.
Besides helping to take care of the bees and harvest the honey twice a year, Sean and Katheryn also contribute by spreading their knowledge about the bees.
“My daughter loves to go to the library and tell people about the bees because they’re fascinating. It’s her favorite thing,” Kelley says.
The Kelleys have been giving back to the community with more than education and donating honey thanks to their bees.
“Farmers, once they find out you have bees, call you. So we really like working with the farmers in town because they get pollination and we get honey,” she says.
Bees pollinate 30 percent of the world’s crops, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which makes them very important to healthy local crops.
After their bees pollinate local crops, they return to their hives with local pollens, which, Kelley insists, are very good for you.
“Our honey is raw, so we literally take it from the hives, spin it out of the frames, and put it in jars. It has all of the local pollens, and it’s better for you to have that as opposed to pollen from other places. Honey that’s not raw is boiled and filtered to remove the pollen, so it’s not as healthy,” she says.
Tewksbury Honey has been selected as a finalist for the northeast in the 2017 Good Food Awards, chosen out of 2,000 entries for their distinct flavor and benefit to the environment. The Kelleys sent in their spring harvest, which has more of a light and floral taste compared to the stronger honey taste of their fall harvest, to the blind taste test and await the winning announcement on Jan. 20.
The Kelley family is willing to trade in all of their free time for bee time, because they know how important bees are to the environment and they’ve made a commitment to making a difference.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Julie Kelley, “and you do have to get past the fear of getting stung, but they’re honeybees and not wasps. We’ve been watching and learning a lot about them.”
What started as a family hobby now makes a great contribution to the local environment and the community that you can support at Mahoney’s Winter Market starting this Saturday or online anytime at www.etsy.com/shop/TewksburyHoney.