PROCTORSVILLE, Vt. – On Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, at the Golden Stage Inn in Proctorsville, Vt., the tenth annual Golden Honey Festival celebrated Vermont’s state insect, the honey bee, with honey-infused food and spirits, and bee-themed arts and crafts. Over 35 sellers participated, many of them beekeepers. The atmosphere was one of community spirit, and shared enthusiasm for honey, bees, and the long-honored tradition of beekeeping throughout the region.
Vermont is New England’s top honey producing state, and home to approximately 750 registered beekeepers, 1,400 apiaries, and an estimated 16,500 bee colonies, according to the state Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets.
Honey bees play a vital role in our agriculture. Aside from providing honey and beeswax, honey bees are an essential link in our food production chain, pollinating more than 80 commercial crops in the United States. Recently the U.S. has seen renewed interest in “backyard beekeeping,” and for some it is a way to do their part to facilitate the important connection bees have to human sustainability.
Local beekeeper Heather Ellis of Grafton, Vt. who attended Saturday’s festival said, “Beekeeping can be challenging, but these little wonders feed the world! How cool is it to be a part of that?”
This year’s festival was the largest yet, and for the first time featured live music, performed by Sammy Blanchette, and craft beer, from Outer Limits Brewery of Proctorsville. The SunnySide Taqueria truck was offering a festival-inspired shrimp, jalapeño, and honey taco, and of course Goodman’s American Pizza was on hand with their signature pie, created especially for the inaugural event: Honey Apple and Cheddar.
The idea for the honey festival was initially sparked over a decade ago, during a conversation around a campfire one evening, between Julie-Lynn and Mike Wood, owners of The Golden Stage Inn, and Jess and Craig Goodman, the owners of Goodman’s American Pizza, based in Ludlow, Vt.
Both women smile as they recount the story of how the discussion went that night.
“There are zucchini festivals, apple festivals, maple syrup…” Jess Goodman recalls her husband Craig saying at the time. “So, we thought, why not a honey festival?”
“We always laugh because usually, when you have those ideas around the fire, after a couple of beers, you don’t follow through,” Julie-Lynn Wood states. “But the next day, Jess called me and said, ‘When should we start planning the honey festival?’ and I thought, well, I guess we’re going through with this one! And it’s been a great ten years.”
Jess Goodman points to a spot on the ground a few feet from where we are standing, in front of the Goodman’s 1940s tow truck that Craig converted into a mobile, wood-fired, beehive-pizza-oven, and says, “That’s where we were sitting that night. The fire pit was right there.”
The women became friends after Wood moved to Vermont twelve years ago, and their children attended school together. Goodman started keeping bees almost ten years ago, (the honey used on the pizza is sourced from the Goodman’s own hives) and Wood has been a beekeeper for about fifteen years. Wood admits she was initially hesitant to set up hives at the inn, worried they would be a deterrent to guests. “By contrast,” Wood says now, “the bees have become part of the branding of our inn. Guests love learning about them, touring the hives, and of course enjoying the honey.”
Wood confesses the work that goes into putting on the honey festival each year can make her sometimes question whether it is worth it. “Time is short, and our lives are full,” she explains. But each year Wood realizes, “We get to be a part of this really fun event that engages our community, supports the very small business owner, and raises money for a local charity, all while celebrating Vermont’s state insect, the honey bee. That’s exactly what we set out to do, and it’s so fun to see it come to fruition year after year!”
This year all proceeds from the Golden Honey Festival will benefit the playground fund at Cavendish Town Elementary School.