ABOUT THE APIARY, THE BEES & THE HONEY
Little Wren Farm Apiary
The apiary at Little Wren Farm is Certified Naturally Grown. “Certified Naturally Grown” is a U.S.-based, non-profit alternative certification program for small-scale, direct-market farmers who are committed to organic practices and who don’t use synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms.
On less than 2/10ths of an acre in Western Massachusetts, we also grow apples, peaches, pears, paw paw, figs, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, black raspberries, cranberries, gooseberries, hazelnuts, rhubarb, grapes, vegetables, herbs, and pollinator plants using organic methods. We grow the food for ourselves, but the honey we share with you.
The Beekeepers & The Bees
The well-being of our honey bees and our environment is our first priority as beekeepers. Our approach to beekeeping is focused on helping our honey bees thrive while minimizing the impacts of our apiary. We use integrated management strategies tailored to the unique rhythms and traits of the honey bee. We do not use synthetic chemical treatments on our bees, and we prioritize management strategies that augment the bees’ natural instincts and strategies. Honey bees are complex and fascinating; we invite you to visit the About Honey Bees page of our website for more information about these amazing social insects.
Little Wren Farm honey is always raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized, and unadulterated. Our honey has never been heated above temperatures naturally found in the hive and our honey is not filtered. This means that our honey contains all the things the bees put in it, including antioxidants, enzymes and pollen. And unlike some other suppliers, we do not use honey from any sources other than our own apiary. When you buy our raw honey, you are buying only honey made by the bees at Little Wren Farm.
What is raw honey? While there is no official definition for raw honey, the term is generally used to refer to honey that has not been filtered or pasteurized and that exists essentially as it did in the hive. Filtering and heating can remove and destroy the more sensitive components of honey, including those that studies indicate may be responsible for a wide range of potential health benefits.
Our honey is extracted and bottled with minimal processing. We extract the honey from the honeycomb using a manually operated centrifuge and then strain the honey at room temperature to remove pieces of beeswax and other hive debris. After the honey is strained, we let it sit for a couple days to allow additional debris to naturally rise to the surface through a process of clarification. We fill our jars from the bottom of the tank, yielding a clean, unprocessed honey that preserves the natural qualities of honey for you to enjoy.
Our honey is packaged for sale only in glass containers. Little Wren Farm uses glass because it is an inert material that does not impart flavor or chemicals into your honey. We appreciate plastic is inexpensive and lightweight, but we don’t like the taste or smell of plastic in our honey. We also don’t want to be responsible for any more plastic ending up in our landfills, our soil, our oceans, and our bodies (do a quick internet search on any of these topics if you’d like to understand more about this problem).
Why is honey filtered and pasteurized if it takes out the good parts of the honey? A big reason is that heated and filtered honey is much less likely to crystallize before you finish the jar. Crystallization is a natural process that does not affect the quality or shelf life of your honey. However, it does make it hard to squeeze out of a plastic honey bear!
Properly stored honey has a nearly indefinite shelf life. Honey will ferment if the moisture content is too high. If heated or improperly stored, it may also lose its aesthetic or beneficial qualities. But proper care of honey is simple. Keep your honey at room temperature in a relatively dark location and it should last as long as you do! (Your kitchen cupboard is its perfect habitat.)
All honey will thicken and crystallize over time, and this process happens more quickly with raw honey. This is a natural (and reversible!) process and does not mean the honey has gone bad. Many people prefer crystallized honey (or “creamed honey”) over liquid honey. If your honey crystallizes or becomes solid, you can simply continue to use it as-is! This is preferred by many and is the standard in Europe. It’s more easily spreadable, and a spoonful is just as good in a cup of tea. Alternately, place your sealed jar of honey in a bowl of warm water and it will revert to liquid form!
Little Wren Farm honey bees harvest nectar from a wide variety of nectar sources that changes throughout the seasons. Because of the ever-changing sources of nectar, and other variables like weather, our honey varies in color, flavor, and quantity from hive-to-hive, season-to-season, and year-to-year. Our early honey (harvested May – July) is light in color with a flavor that some describe as fruity and nuanced. The mid-season honey (harvested in July through mid-August) is medium amber in color. Our fall wildflower honey (harvested through late September and made from nectar of late-blooming species, including goldenrod, aster, and Japanese knotweed ) is a gorgeous, deep amber with a more full-bodied and rich flavor.
How do I know which type of honey I might like? Darker honey is said to contain more vitamins and minerals, though many prefer the nuanced flavors of early season honey. People are often fascinated to discover that they have a distinct preference for honey from one season or another. If you’re interested in comparing, order a seasonal honey sampler from our online store and find our what you like!