By Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan
Over the past month, I (and others on the Local Food team) have been visiting farmers, ranchers and food producers in Solano County to get a more concrete picture of the current local food supply. Clay Ford of Pleasants Valley Honey Company was on my list. “Do you want to visit the apiary?” asked Clay, as I was arranging a meeting with him. “Sure,” I replied, “that would be great!” On a hot June Friday, I drove out to Soul Food Farm, which is one of five locations where Clay keeps his bees.
Clay’s wife Karen was the first to greet me near the hives. She explained that their honey is hand-spun, and that they keep the hives near farms that use little to no synthetic pesticides or herbicides. I noticed several rows of thriving lavender plants in the distance at Soul Food Farm, which I’m sure held tasty nectar for the bees. Location is important; I learned that bees shouldn’t be kept near or in a forest, because it disturbs the native population.
I figured we’d chat about the honey business and then I’d be on my merry way. Nope! Clay came prepared with a full bee suit for me to don, and invited me to get up close and personal with the Queens and Workers who help make his business happen. Great! (I’ve never done this before!) Karen helped me climb into the suit and then agreed to take some pictures of me. (I figured my two little boys at home would find this super cool – I looked like an alien, after all.)
Bees are certainly fascinating creatures, and it was a rare opportunity to get to see them in action. My thanks go out to Clay, who patiently answered all sorts of questions that I had about how he got into the business, the structure of the hives, the behavior of the bees, and more. I got so involved in learning about the apiary that I was half an hour late for a dinner party that night. But that’s ok…..it was a sweet way to start the weekend.
Look for Pleasants Valley Honey Company at Farmer’s Markets in Vacaville and Fairfield, and at select retailers around the County.