Hunter Diesman calls his mom “the bees knees.”
It’s only fitting considering Dee and Joe Diesman’s latest venture has garnered them a national award.
Dee and Joe, owners of Shear Love in Culpeper, started Hippie Chick Apiary almost a year ago and already have two and a half gallons of honey and a Good Food Award to show for it.
The honey business was a sweet idea that came about when Hunter saw an idea on Indie Go-Go called a flow hive. Dee, whose father was a founding member of the EPA, liked the sound of the plan and decided to support it while they were living in Newport News. Shortly after, the family moved to Culpeper when she got an email saying that they needed to update their information as the hives were going into production. Nine months later, the hives showed up at their door and Hippie Chick Apiary was born.
“Just like a baby,” Joe said with a laugh.
By the time the hives arrived, it was too late to start so the Diesman family began their bee venture in March 2017. There has been trials and tribulations along the way – one queen and her brood escaped, and they’ve had to deal with Varroa mites, an invasive bug from Asia.
That however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They had to harvest early due to the mites, which led to them winning the Good Food Award.
Business is buzzing
The Diesmans are selling their honey on hippiechickapiary.com and decided to enter the Good Food Awards after joining the Good Food Guild.
Their hives have two queens with 20,000 bees each at the moment. The broods can get up to 80,000 to 90,000 per colony in the summer.
“They’re buzzing around here all the time,” Dee said.
“With the flow hive, which a lot of beekeepers don’t like the flow hive,” Dee said.
The flow hives, which Dee says many traditional beekeepers don’t like, have food grade plastic frames that store the honey. The bees fill any void with wax and put the honey in, and the frames are capped when it’s full. Then a metal bar is inserted that breaks the seal and honey flows down and out – thanks to gravity – into a waiting jar.
It’s more humane, Hunter says, as they don’t have to disturb the bees.
“There’s no smoking, it doesn’t harm or disturb the bees at all,” Hunter said.
The hive allows honey to be removed without opening or removing the frames, hence not disturbing the bees.
“My delicious honey was extracted using new revolutionary Flow Technology which allows for the honey to be extracted from the hive without opening and removing the frames or disturbing the bees,” Dee said. “The Flow Method of harvesting allows for the honey to be removed from the comb without the need to strain or process in any way. This gives our honey the unique advantage of tasting exactly like honeycomb honey, which has not had it’s flavor or composition compromised by any extraction processes.”
They harvested two and a half gallons on their first try, but weren’t sure what to do next. Dee turned to a page in her Bee Culture magazine and saw an advertisement for the Good Food Guild and then the Good Food Awards.
“I said I should join this Good Food Guild because they believe in the same concepts I do, like sustainability and chemical free healthy environment,” Dee said. “At the end of that membership application there was a category for honey for the Good Food Awards.”
After passing their initial vetting, they Diesmans had to prove that there were no agrichemicals within a two and a half mile radius of their home. After filling out the information and being informed they were a finalist in November, they were named the winner in January at a ceremony in San Francisco.
“The whole experience there in San Francisco, being amongst other honey producers, it was an amazing adventure,” Dee said. “The people we met were amazing.”
It’s a family affair for the Diesmans as everyone chips in to help – sons Justin, Michael, Hunter, Patrick and Michael’s girlfriend Leilani.
Dee said adding to the ecosystem in Culpeper has been a joy, noting that in the past year her neighbors have said their bees have been helping pollinate all over.
“Since we’ve done this, we’ve had people tell us their gardens were more fruitful than any year prior to us being here,” Dee said. “The flowers we planted were good up until our first frost in November.”
The bee business is all about being natural, for Dee.
“For me it’s providing the all-natural bee product as they make it,” Dee said. “We don’t put it in a centrifuge and blend the flavors. Each one of those frames will taste different depending on what they’ve pollinated.”