Honey of a hobby

9/21/2013

Scott City couple make hobby out of beekeeping.

Scott City couple make hobby out of beekeeping.

BY BECKY MALEWITZ

bmalewitz@gctelegram.com

SCOTT CITY — Ron and Connie Hopkins have a license plate on the front of their white truck that reads "eat honey."

Parked in an alfalfa field not far from U.S. Highway 83, it's hard to believe that each of the six white boxes standing in the evening sun near the Scott City couple's truck contain up to 60,000 bees. The windy day has kept most inside, but it's easy to see and hear the occasional bee flying toward the hive.

Ron, dressed in his beekeeping suit, uses smoke to calm the bees as he checks on the hives honey making process. In the coming weeks, he will harvest the honey. After that, he will let the bees start stocking up for winter.

Ron and Connie's 23-year beekeeping hobby has evolved from producing honey for their family to selling it at local farmers markets under the name Windy Plains Honey.

"I don't eat any store bought stuff," Ron said, noting that peanut butter and honey sandwiches are one of his favorite treats.

Ron says that he and his wife are always looking for different ways to use honey in recipes and everyday products.

"If we try to find a recipe for something, we try to find one with honey. You can replace sugar with honey," he said.

The couple, who are a part of the Kansas Honey Producers Association, sell a variety of honey and beeswax based products at their farmers market booth.

Lotion bars and lip balm are the newest addition to the Windy Pains Honey product line.

"We had extra wax, so we were like, 'let's do something with it,'" Connie said. "We make honey, creamed honey, jalapeño honey mustard. The jalapeño honey mustard is actually a recipe his brother gave us where we took out the sugar and added honey, so that's kind of a family recipe, I guess. The honey jelly is a recipe we got from a fellow beekeeper at one of the meetings and the creamed honey..." Connie paused trying to remember where the recipe came from.

"I got that off of youtube," Ron said with a laugh.

When they first started beekeeping, the Hopkins had a single hive. Now, Ron, a supervisor for the highway department in Scott City, and Connie, who works in the Scott County Hospital's physical therapy department, have a total of nine hives, three on the west end of Scott City and six in the alfalfa field north of Garden City.

"It's hard to find a place where people will let you put bees, and with all this alfalfa around here, I just started driving and stopping at the farm houses around here," Ron said, explaining the location of his hives.

Although Ron occasionally has been stung during his 23-year hobby, he thinks that honey bees have an undeserved bad reputation.

"If somebody gets stung by a bee, they assume it's a honey bee, but a lot of times it's a wasp or a sweat bee," he said. "These are actually pretty gentle."

According to Connie, she never expected to become so involved in beekeeping, but she and Ron have had great experiences with their hobby, and she hopes to expand the number of hives they have.

"I think 25 sounds like a good number. I don't know what he's thinking," she said. "Considering it's a hobby, you don't want to get so overwhelmed that you don't want to do it, but maybe (we will) retire sometime and be full-time keepers. We really do enjoy it, and the farmers market keeps us busy on Saturdays".

As for future honey-based products, Ron says he has yet to tackle wine.

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