One Sweet Festival: The Oregon Honey and Mead Festival
Honey, one of the most common sweeteners people use in their coffee, tea, and baking, is produced in an intricate process easily taken for granted. Not only is the process intricate, but the producers––bees––are being threatened more and more each year. Oregon Honey Festival exists to celebrate and inform the public about bees and honey.
“The humble honey bee is the agricultural pollinator of choice for almonds and other kinds of orchards and crops,” says Sharon Schmidt, organizer of the festival and part of Cascade Girl Organization who is putting on the event. “Unfortunately, beekeepers are still experiencing about 40 percent hive loss each year. That means that each year four or five out of 10 hives that consist of over 60 thousand cooperative individual bees dies. This is thought to be due to pests like the varroa mite which, if uncontrolled, can decimate a hive by sucking the blood like substance of baby and adult bees, climate change and pesticide exposure. Additionally, in other states, hive pests are also wreaking havoc on honeybees.”
Healthy bees means healthy honey, Schmidt emphasizes. Titled “For Bee’s Sake!,” this year’s festival is Saturday, August 19, and will feature several beekeepers, bee experts preparing lectures, authors, and live music. Along with honey, attendees will also enjoy cheese, chocolate, and other homemade food from vendors. With around 450 attendees last year, Schmidt expects even more this year.
“Dewey Caron and Marie Simmons will be leading people in honey tasting and evaluation,” Schmidt says. “Marie is an award winning food author who resides in the Eugene area. She has written many cookbooks, one of which is focused exclusively on honey! Many people don’t know that there is a way to taste honey and that honeys with different floral backgrounds have vastly different tastes and aromas.”
Beekeepers like Franz Honeybees, Chico Honey Company, and Davitt Apiaries will discuss the local beekeepers’ role in the community. Local beauty and health expert Janice Cox will educate how she uses beeswax in her products and how they’re a healthier alternative compared to other beauty products.
Professor Emeritus at University of Delaware and UC Davis Advisor Dr. Dewey Caron has prepared a lecture for the first event of the festival, called the “Beekeeper’s Breakfast” at Ashland Springs Hotel. Schmidt says, “He will talk about honeybee health and its relationship to honey. Bonnie Morse, co-owner of Bonnie Bee Company in Marin, is also an Arborist. She is the genius who organized the 2016 BeeAudacious Invitational Conference.”
Mead is also a featured product of the festival. “Mead is an ancient, healthful, fermented beverage derived from honey. Both Oran Mor Meadery (from Roseburg) and Fringe Mead (Portland) will bring their best for tasting. Ninkasi will also represent with their new honey derived, Hop Cooler, and the folks from Platt-Anderson will be pouring as well.”
As for live music, South African singer-songwriter Carla Bauer will perform at 10 am. “Attendees will also enjoy the live music of Sequoia––the Brinkerhoffs are a beekeeping family which always brings their A-game,” Schmidt adds. “Sequoia is the the best there is in terms of high-energy bluegrass.” Children authors Aimee Lissantheia and Kenda Swartz Pepper are prepared to read to younger attendees, as well as crafts being available throughout the day.
“What we hope for is that attendees will become interested in helping honeybees and other pollinators by being mindful of how we treat the earth and what we put on it,” she says. “Honeybees in a hive constitute an amazing living entity. If we can become a little more aware of this miracle of honey which allows us to taste the character of the land, perhaps we can be more discerning about the potential effects of what we do to our land.”
Tickets can be purchased at evenbrite.com and for more information about the festival, visit https://www.oregonhoneyfestival.com.
Oregon Honey Festival
10 am – 6 pm, Saturday, August 19
Historic Ashland Elk’s Lodge, 255 E Main St, Ashland
$10 for early birds, $12 at the door, kids eight and under free