by Denise Gierula
Griesemer Beekeeping’s mission is to keep their customers as happy as their bees. James (Jim) Griesemer, a Berks County native, was born and raised in Wernersville. He and his wife Christine bring his honey and expertise to our community, every other week as a part time vendor at our market.
As summer turns to fall and the kiddos go off to school, keep in mind the importance of teachers and the significance they have on our lives. “When I was a freshman at Conrad Weiser High School, the agriculture science teacher, Steve Miller, got me into beekeeping. He had a gift for looking at a student and throwing projects at them. The school agriculture department had two beehives that a recent graduate had been taking care of. Mr. Miller knew it was time to have a new student take things over, so I ended up with the bees to care for. The rest is history!” recalls Jim.
Jim furthered his education earning a BS Degree in Horticulture with a focus on Fruit and Vegetable Production from Delaware Valley College. Through hard work, Jim has turned his beekeeping interest into a successful career and has come full circle as a teacher: he has begun to play the same role as his mentor, Mr. Miller. Currently holding a full-time, seasonal position at the Milton Hershey School as a Program Assistant for the Agricultural and Environmental Education Division, Jim said, “At the school, I manage the orchard, run the seasonal farmers market and teach the kids about growing and marketing fruits and vegetables. Of course I also take care of the school’s bees.” In an interview for his alma mater, Delaware Valley, Jim reflected, “The most rewarding part about my job is to see a student’s face light up when they’ve learned or experienced something new, like picking a blueberry for the first time.”
In addition to Jim, you will also find his lovely wife Christine at our market. They met each other in high school where they were both active in the agriculture science department. She received her BS in Environmental Science from Delaware Valley College and works for the Berks County Conservation District as an Agriculture Resource Conservationist. You can find her every other Tuesday selling Griesemer honey at St. Joseph Medical Center’s Market in Bern Township. Jim added that Christine loves the markets as it allows her to continue her hobby of crocheting, which you will also find for sale.
When I asked what they thought of the Antietam Farmers Market, they replied, “We are amazed by the community’s support of this market. We can’t believe how successful this first year market has been thus far. We can’t thank the community enough for supporting us and the market”.
Griesemer provides a wide variety of honey flavors and the knowledge to help you pick the right one for your needs. Besides thoroughly enjoying Griesemer honey in my afternoon tea, Jim helped me pick the perfect honey, to substitute sugar, in my homemade bread recipe. Below is a descriptive list of honey offered from Griesemer Beekeeping.
- Alfalfa- light mild extremely sweet flavor
- Blueberry- good honey flavor with a subtitle sweet tart blueberry flavor
- Buckwheat- the Guinness of honey! Dark and robust flavor
- Clover- standard honey flavor
- Orange Blossom- light citrus flavor
- Wildflower- full-bodied honey flavor
- Raw Honey- you’ll have to try it and see! Similar to wildflower
Top five questions you should be asking your local beekeeper and answered by Jim Griesemer.
Q. Is the honey you sell from your own hives? Do you package honey from another source? If so, from where?
A. We sell our own local raw creamed honey. We also work with some other beekeepers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to bring in special varieties of honey such as blueberry. We only sell honey when we are 100% sure of its source.
Q. Is your honey processed or pasteurized?
A. We heat all the honey except for the raw honey to a very low temperature (about 105 degrees F) and run the honey through a strainer. We heat the honey in order to bottle it and provide the liquid, uncrystalized honey varieties we offer. If we didn’t heat the honey before bottling it, the honey would crystalize quickly in the bottles.
Q. Do you feed your bees sugar or pollen substitutes?
A. We will feed our bees sugar water if they need supplemental feed. If we didn’t feed our weak hives they would not survive the season.
Q. Can you explain the Varroa Mite to everyone? Do you use pesticides or antibiotics in the hive as a preventative?
A. The varroa mite is a tiny mite that attaches itself to the underside of the bee. It lives off the bee’s circulatory system similar to the way a tick feeds off mammals. The mite will stay attached to the bee until it has sucked all the life out, killing it.
To help control varroa mite we use a product called Apiguard which is an all-natural product created from thyme. Even though it’s all natural we never use it when there is honey on the hive!
Q. And a question from my teenagers…have you ever been stung by your bees?
A. I’ve been stung more times than I can count! Luckily for me my when I get stung I get almost no reaction!
Being stung by bees seems to be just one of the hazards of the job as Jim remembered, “A few years ago, I spent a summer inspecting bees for the state of Pennsylvania. One particular day sticks out in my mind when I was with a beekeeper inspecting his hives as we stood inside an electric fence. At one point, I looked up and realized there was a black bear standing along the wood line watching us. I was extremely glad to be inside the fence! The bear and I watched each other intently until I was way past ready to leave”.
Griesemer Beekeeping currently maintains 20 hives with four in Bernville, six in Wernersville and ten in Womelsdorf. Jim said, “How much honey we get each year depends deeply on the weather, but on average an established hive will produce 40 pounds.” Besides selling honey, Griesemer also specializes in swarm removal, equipment sales, honey extraction and pollination services. In addition to teaching and beekeeping, Jim is also a member of the Berks and Schuylkill Beekeepers Association where he serves as treasurer.
I asked Jim where he and Christine see themselves in the next 5 years and he said, “Both Christine and I would like to have our own farm in the next 5 years. We want to have 60 hives and continue with honey extraction and direct marketing to the customers. We would like to get into farming more too. However, the type of farming we do will depend on the farm property we find to buy. We plan to keep our roots in producing local products alongside our honey business and continue to direct market these items.” Keep up with Griesemer by “liking” their Facebook page where they share informative videos, photos and everything abuzz in the bee world.
The Antietam Valley Farmers’ and Artists’ Market invite you and your family to stop by our community table on Saturday, September 26th, where James will be bringing a variety of beekeeping equipment for show and tell. Check out pictures of what the inside of a beehive looks like and get to know your local beekeeper. And, don’t worry, honey will still be available as Christine manages the Griesemer Beekeeping stand in between crocheting blue ribbon winning items to sell as well.
Christine offers this recipe saying it was a hit last Thanksgiving. Simple and fast, it would be perfect with all the fruit still in season at market. You can also change up the recipe and enjoy it as a spread by reducing the milk.
HONEY CREAM CHEESE FRUIT DIP from Christine Griesemer
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1⁄3-1⁄2 cup Griesemer Beekeeping Honey (Christine recommends their Blueberry Honey)
2 -4 Tablespoons milk
Blend ingredients together until smooth. Cover, refrigerate until ready to serve and then enjoy!