By Gretchen Ammerman
For the TODAY
If you’ve ever attended a wine tasting, you (hopefully) came away with the ability to choose wines based on more than the style of the label and the price tag, maybe even becoming comfortable using words like “grassy”, “fruity” and “earthy.” Applying the same principle to a different popular product, honey tastings are blossoming around the country and will be a featured event at the inaugural Oregon Coast Honey Lovers Festival, to be held this Saturday, Feb 17, at the Yachats Commons.
It all started, according to organizer and Yachats-based beekeeper Patti Johnson, when she dropped off some of her home-produced honey to minister Mary Crook as a thank you gift.
“She called and said, ‘I just had your honey on toast, and I think we should do a honey-tasting festival,’” Johnson said. “‘Would you be interested in organizing it?’ So I went to our local beekeepers group and it got legs. It’s been growing like crazy; people are really excited about it.”
Learning about the complex tastes of our first sweetener is just one of the ways you will become enriched at the fest, which aims to educate as well as entertain, starting with the youngest consumers.
“One of the key focuses is going to be on educating children,” Johnson said. “I did a presentation for the kids that are helping to make art for the event, and the main thing they came away with is that every third bite you take comes from a bee. Those kids will be ambassadors. If we can prepare the next generation to understand about pollinators we have done our job.”
Helping to educate both kids and accompanying adults will be Penny Walter of Penny’s Puppet Productions, who claims that “a fun puppet show can make children forget they are being taught a lesson.”
The festival will also have a children’s area, featuring the local kids’ art and overseen by a “bee mascot” and ushers wearing bee suits. Guests will also be able to see bees going about their daily lives in clear-sided observation hives.
A full roster of speakers, while focusing on the honey bee, will land on other topics relating the valuable connection between petal and plate.
“Pollinators are a huge umbrella of things that vibrate,” Johnson said. “Honey bees are just one of them.”
Speakers will include David Gordon, PhD, an insect biologist specializing in the ecology of native bees; and Darren Morgan, nursery manager at Shonnard’s Nursery in Corvallis.
If these talks get you buzzing with excitement about providing habitat for pollinators, there will be vendors at the festival selling both seeds and seedlings of some of the attracting plant species.
Many institutions in Oregon recognize the critical value of pollinators and are working to ensure their survival, especially Oregon State University.
Andony Melathopoulos, assistant professor of pollinator health extension at OSU, will be giving an update on the status of the Oregon Bee Project, which is OSU’s effort to design, implement and evaluate a state wide pollinator health program, including the construction of a pollinator corridor.
And for those that are on the fence about providing a home for bees on their property,
Carolyn Breece, faculty research assistant in the OSU Master Beekeeping Program, will be presenting “To Bee or Not to Bee — Is Beekeeping Right for You?”
Honey tasting expertise will be provided by Fred Shelby, beekeeping specialist at Shonnard’s.
“The tasting will be like a wine tasting with a talk first about the factors that gives honey its wide variety of flavors,” Johnson said. “Ashland did a honey tasting that this is being modeled after. Though they are growing in popularity, this will be only the second one on the state so far.”
The tasting will feature a “flight” of four or five honeys. Some vendors at the event will also offer samples.
“I didn’t get into keeping bees for the honey,” Johnson said. “I just love the bees; I find them mesmerizing, especially as I learn more and more about them. But once you get that honey, after seeing how it is produced, and then taste it for the first time, you realize how truly special it is.”
The Oregon Coast Honey Lovers Festival will run from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, Feb. 17. The Yachats Commons is located on Highway 101 at 5th Street. For more information, call 541-547-3530 or go to yachats.org.
If you go
10:15 am: “The Wonders of Honey,” by Fred Shelby of Shonnard’s Nursery
11 am & 12:45 pm: Honey Tastings, presented by Jeffrey Warren of J. W. Mercantile
11 am: Children’s Puppet Show, by Penny’s Puppet Productions
Noon: “Enhancing Alternative Pollinators for Orchards and Gardens,” by Dr. David Gordon
1 pm: “Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden,” by Darren Morgon of Shonnard’s Nursery
1:30 pm: “Products of the Hive,” demonstration by Becca Fain
2 pm: “To Bee or Not to Bee — Is Becoming a Beekeeper Right for You?” by Carolyn Breece
2:45 pm: Mead Tasting, presented by Phillip Lorenz of Nectar Creek
3 pm: “The Oregon Bee Project,” by Dr. Andony Melathopoulos