One item on my thankful list this year is the comfort derived from knowing I live just down the road from one of my favorite locally owned businesses, the Oregon Bee Store. I keep a quart jar of delectably sweet, raw blackberry honey on top of my refrigerator, within easy grasp. It improves my daily mugs of green tea. Truthfully, I sometimes grab a spoon and eat it right out of the jar. I give credit to local raw honey and its inherent pollen for alleviating my allergies.
According to company founder, Morris Curtis, the originally named Wild Bee Honey Farm began selling raw honey to area wild mountain hippies in 1966. Now his youngest son, Mike, beekeeping since he was 4 years old, with his wife, Angelika, run the business and store located at 14356 Highway 62 in Eagle Point. The Oregon Bee Store and accompanying hive activity is a second-generation family affair, and concern for the health and welfare of bees extends high up in their family tree.
Their biggest asset may very well be their employee Terri. She is a friendly, energetic and capable person who loves to answer questions and talk about new products, of which there were many since I’d darkened their threshold. Terri loves her job on the farm, and it shows.
“We sell beekeeping supplies. We have a lot of kids come in for field trips. Even little families come in on the weekends, and I put the kids in a little hat and gloves and walk them through how we extract the honey.” Terri set up a beekeeping registry like a wedding registry to help newcomers better afford the start-up supplies.
The Curtis enterprise has diversified over the years into selling wonderful honey-related products and gift items, such as handmade beeswax candles by Angelika. These come in various animal and nature-inspired shapes. One of my favorites is the hedgehog, which somehow scuttled into my sack when my back was turned, but I also chose a pair of hand-dipped tapers for a hostess gift.
Naturally, I couldn’t leave without a generous handful of Bit O’ Honey candies for my loudmouthed sweet tooth. The Curtises package several types of organic herbal tea blends. I picked up a bag of allergy relief mix for a special daughter I know. And I couldn’t resist a jar of honey-sweetened raspberry fruit spread. Though my best intention is to include it with the stocking stuffers, it has little chance of making it until Christmas. Somehow I resisted buying (this time) their infused honeys. They come in lavender from the Applegate Lavender Farm, ginger, habanero pepper, vanilla, autumn spice and peppermint. I tried them all, but lavender and ginger won over my taste buds, with the perfect mix of honey and flavorful infusion.
Spices for their Chai honey come from a local woman who grinds them using bicycle power. I pictured this and would like to see her in action, but that’s a subject for another day.
Their honey flavors are as diverse as the blossoms from which they’re derived. Hives are moved by night from one crop to the next to best assure the bees are at home. They may be out carousing otherwise. Those wild bees.
But the Oregon Bee Store is more than bees and honey. The Curtis family grows and sells many varieties of fresh, organic produce on its seven acres, including apples, berries, tomatoes and greens, to name a few.
I asked about the plight of the honeybee, since its threat affects us all. With mites, weather and chemicals on the attack, these little guys are struggling, and hives are disappearing. But with folks like the Curtises devoting their lives to sharing bee culture, and a caring public buying their local products, maybe the bees have a fighting chance.
— Peggy Dover is a freelance writer living in Eagle Point. Email her at email@example.com.