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  • Jennifer Fischer

To Bee or Not to BEE???

When opening Vyana and deciding on the food choices we wanted to support, I had to do a bit of research and some soul searching to see what was important to me, as well as to the community we support. A controversial food in the plant-based community is and has been the use of honey. Many will argue that honey comes from an animal source and that bees are treated un-ethically and the demise of the bee population is rapidly progressing, leaving us contemplating its use in any capacity. I reached out to local Beekeeper, Rachel Newby who harvests her honey right here in Pottstown, Pennsylvania to have a conversation and get her perspective on the subject.


Vyana (V): What is your relationship with Bees and their Honey? Tell us about your experience and how long you’ve been into Bees.


Rachel (R): Both my grandmother and great-grandfather were beekeepers, so some of my earliest memories are of beekeepers and their bees. Once I moved out of the city and had some space, I decided to take up the family tradition, and have been a beekeeper for nine years now.


(V): Do you think Honey, Pollen and Royal Jelly are Healthy?

(R): I’m a believer in local, ethical, naturally raised food. In my opinion, ethically managed and harvested honeybee products are a healthy addition to anyone’s diet. Since we have started keeping bees and eating our own locally harvested honey, my husband’s seasonal allergies have disappeared! Not everyone has the same experience, but honeybee products have made a difference in our health.


(V): What is your take on Honey and not consumed by Plant-based consumers?

(R): I firmly believe that everyone should make their own healthy eating choices. With that said, I know some plant-based folks are concerned with using honeybee products for food. That’s not entirely off the mark-large scale beekeepers (like any large-scale food manufacturer) can employ problematic methods in how they raise their bees and harvest honey. This is why I ALWAYS recommend getting honey (and any other food!) from a small producer. Small-scale beekeepers have first-hand knowledge of the health and care of their colonies, and are very involved in the maintenance, disease prevention, and feeding of their honeybees. Small scale apiarists also do a lot of work towards mitigating the Varroa Destructor, a non-native invasive pest that is largely responsible for the collapse of the honeybee population worldwide. Without this vital mitigation by small-scale beekeepers, honeybee populations would be in much worse shape.


(V): Are your bees organic (is this possible even?), free-range and local?

(R): It’s tough to call any honeybee products completely organic, as honeybees will fly up to five miles to forage for pollen and nectar! So, unless you know a beekeeper has 20 square miles of certified organic land, it’s likely most honeybees are getting into something that has been treated with agri-chemicals.

My apiaries are all located on chemical-free land, most of which is located on or near undeveloped state parkland. We work very hard to give them as much chemical-free forage as possible, and all our colonies reside within 25 miles of Pottstown, PA.


(V): If you are allergic to Bees are you allergic to Honey?

(R): If you are allergic to bee stings, don’t worry! You should have no trouble enjoying our delicious honey. Anyone who is really unsure should ask their Dr for more advice. Also, the USDA recommends not feeding raw honey to infants.


(V): Anything you’d like to share about Bees, Honey or in General?

(R): Honeybees are truly amazing little things-the only insect in the world that does not hibernate or go ‘dormant’ in the winter-they stay awake and alert and ‘cluster’ together to keep warm during the cold winter months!

As a beekeeper, I am still learning something new every year (which keeps things interesting!) If you have any additional questions for me, please don’t hesitate to email newbeeranch@gmail.com


I learned a lot from Rachel and it means so much to me to know that she is knowledgeable and compassionate when it comes to bees and their honey. Being that she is part of a lineage that keeps the bee love alive is not only admirable but valued in a day and age where these types of crafts are being lost to a bigger industry. In my experience, there will always be a difference of perspective when it comes to lifestyles and what to support. Topics like this one can tend to take us down rabbit holes that well…may or may not be home to a very nice rabbit. What it comes down to for me personally is what works for me and can I stand behind it, do I know my why. Currently, Vyana will offer honey that is local and sustainably sourced as an ingredient in some of our menu items and for retail sales. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us love@vyanacafe.com


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