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oh, honey
by Emily Merrell, photography submitted by Crooked Creek Bee Co.

The Coy family is making Arkansas naturally sweeter with Crooked Creek Bee Company and Nature’s Golden Honey.

Although the family purchased Crooked Creek in 2015, they are no strangers to the business—the Coy family has been beekeeping for more than 50 years, going back four generations of beekeepers. In the 1960s, Gene Coy began beekeeping as a hobby. His son, Bobby, decided to take the hobby and create a beekeeping business. Bobby’s sons, Richard and David, carry on as the third generation of beekeepers for the largest beekeeping operation in Arkansas, Coy’s Honey Farm Inc., which produces honey for large distributors.

Each member of the family plays an integral part in maintaining daily business, including Richard’s wife, Julia, and David’s wife, Sarah Ruth. Now, Martin and Andrew join their family as the fourth generation of beekeepers, and the new generation is dedicated to providing local and regional grocery markets with a raw, unfiltered wildflower honey. Andrew and Sarah oversee the packaging, delivering and sales of Nature’s Golden Honey by Crooked Creek Bee Company, which is currently available in more than 60 stores locally and regionally. They have more than 1,000 hives throughout eastern Arkansas, and their packaging facility is located near Brookland.

You describe your products as “minimally processed.” Can you explain what this means and what the benefits are of minimally processed bee products?
Sarah: Our goal is to keep our honey as pure as possible. We want our customers to experience honey as if straight from the hive. Nature’s Golden Honey goes through a simple strainer to remove bee parts and debris, whereas most other honey goes through an intensive microfilter. General honey on the market is heated to maintain a liquefied state on the grocery store shelf. Our honey is considered “raw” because we do not heat the honey to maintain that liquefied state. When the honey is heated, the naturally occurring enzymes are denatured, and while the honey is still sweet, it will not provide you with the wonderful health properties that the bees provide. Because it is not heated, Nature’s Golden Honey will solidify or crystallize over time. Do not be alarmed, though, as this is a sign you have the rawest form of product containing all of the pollen and enzymes necessary for fighting against local allergens and a variety of other health concerns. Simply place a jar of crystallized Nature’s Golden Honey in warm water to liquefy.

What does a typical day at a hive look like?
Sarah: Throughout a day at a hive, worker bees go foraging for pollen. Using their unbelievable olfactory senses, they travel for miles to find vegetation to pollinate. After they have collected pollen and nectar, they travel back to the hive to deposit the pollen and nectar, feed from the honey and tend to the queen.

What are the day-to-day duties of a beekeeper?
Sarah: Beekeepers’ daily duties vary with the season. It is currently harvest season, so we spend time collecting the honey that has been made from our bees pollinating local wildflowers. Early morning or evening are the best times to work with the bees, and that time is spent checking on the brude (bee larvae), the queen and the overall state of the hive. Every day brings a new job, and with it, a new adventure.

What does a typical work day look like for you and Andrew?
Sarah: We spend a lot of time on the road traveling. We deliver honey to stores all across the region, from small mom and pop stores all the way to large grocery stores, such as six Whole Foods Markets. Aside from meeting the demand of our 60-plus stores, we run an online store where we fulfill orders for Arkansas wildflower honey all across the country. We oversee the honey being bottled and packed each week and keep an eye over the management of our hives. We love meeting customers – old and new – while sampling our honey at various grocery stores and festival events. No week is the same, and there are challenges, just as with any small business, but we love what we do, and even better, we love the opportunity to grow this business together.

What are your favorite ways to add honey into your everyday diet?
Sarah: I cook nearly every meal and find a way to incorporate honey into most dishes. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy honey are the most simple—drizzled on a sliced apple with peanut butter, or in a bowl of hot oats, or spread on a piece of warm toasted bread with goat cheese. There are many ways to substitute honey in recipes, as well, just remember the one to one-half ratio; for every one part sugar you would normally use, only use half the quantity of honey.

Crooked Creek Bee Company offers its raw, unfiltered wildflower honey in 12-ounce honey bears, 16-ounce skeps, 22-ounce pints and 46-ounce quarts. Products are available locally at Harp’s, Truck Patch, Natural Grocers and Bill’s Cost Plus. For more information, visit crookedcreekbeeco.com, follow it on Instagram @ccbeeco or find it on Facebook.

 

a time to bee thankful

Want to include locally-sourced honey in this year’s Thanksgiving meal? Occasions asked Sarah Coy of Nature’s Golden Honey by Crooked Creek Bee Company to share a few recipes for the upcoming holiday. Strike gold with these honey-infused recipes during this season of thanksgiving.

Autumn Granola Bars
Ingredients:
5 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup thinly sliced pitted dates
? cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup sliced dried apricots
¾ cup coconut flakes  
¼ cup black chia seeds
2 teaspoons maple extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup Nature’s Golden Honey

Directions: Toast oats, coconut and pecans (hit with a little coconut oil spray and toss in sea salt) on parchment-lined cookie sheets in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 7-9 minutes (until golden brown toast). Combine cranberries, dates, apricots, vanilla and maple extracts, chia seeds, cinnamon and honey. Incorporate toasted ingredients as they come out of the oven. Mix well. Using a ? cup measure, scoop mixture onto individual pieces of plastic wrap and shape into bars. Wrap up and store in the fridge or freezer.

Paleo Pumpkin Coffee Cake
Ingredients:
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup Nature’s Golden Honey
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 eggs
? cup coconut flour
1 ¼ almond flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt

Topping:
? cup coconut flour
½ cup almond flour
4 tablespoons Nature’s Golden Honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. For the topping: gently whisk together flours, baking soda, spices and salt. Slowly stir in honey and oil. For the cake: in a separate bowl, combine honey, coconut oil and pumpkin. Add in the eggs one at a time. Mix well. Add flours, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix well. Spread topping in the bottom of a parchment lined 9-by-9-inch pan. Pour cake batter over topping. Bake 45-50 minutes. Can be stored in refrigerator for three to five days.

Classic Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients:
3 cups sweet potato (about four average-sized potatoes)
½ cup honey
½ cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
? cup milk
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice

Topping:
? cup butter
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup Nature’s Golden Honey
½ cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Boil and mash potatoes. Mix in honey, butter, eggs, vanilla and milk. Spread mixture into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Topping- melt butter in small bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. Sprinkle on top of potato mixture. Bake for 25 minutes.

Honey Butter
Ingredients:
¼ cup Nature’s Golden Honey
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Directions: Using an electric mixer, beat together honey and butter until a whipped consistency forms. Store in refrigerator.

Spiced Honey Roasted Nuts
Ingredients:
2 ½ cups nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.)
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup Nature’s Golden Honey
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Warm honey in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Place nuts in a medium sized bowl. Pour honey over the nuts, and mix in cayenne pepper. Spread mixture onto cookie sheet, and sprinkle salt on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning. After baking, allow pan to cool and then serve.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup Nature’s Golden Honey
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar. Shake well. Store three to five days in the fridge.