SEQUIM — Sequim Bee Farm’s Meg and Buddy DePew see their honey continue to draw accolades while expanding their homegrown business.
For the fifth year in a row, the couple received more kudos from the Good Food Awards, a national competition with more than 2,000 entries across 16 categories such as beer, cheese, coffee and honey.
The DePew’s Dungeness Fields liquid honey and Snowberry Rose honey cream won top prizes, while their Snowberry Rose liquid honey was a finalist in the blind taste testings by judges.
“It was our fifth year and sixth and seventh awards,” Meg said.
The honey producer was the only North Olympic Peninsula business to win in the Good Food Awards competition this year. Finnriver Farm & Cidery of Chimacum won awards in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 in its category. Alpenfire Orchards of Port Townsend and Midori Farm of Quilcene took awards in 2013.
The Dungeness honey is a culmination of honeys from local lavender farms’ honeybee hives that Buddy manages. The Snowberry Rose honey comes from one of the couple’s properties east of Port Angeles.
Meg said they plan to debut the honeys at the 22nd-annual Soroptimist Gala Garden Show set for March 21-22 at the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.
Since the couple won $20,000 from Kitsap Bank’s edg3 FUND small business competition in 2018, they’ve stuck to their plans to expand operations and increase efficiency.
They built a barn at one of their properties east of Port Angeles with hopes to establish a storefront and commercial kitchen by spring 2021. The DePews plan to host school groups, scout troops and other community groups in the future.
Buddy said they’ve upgraded equipment to extract honey, melt it and turn it into cream (as needed) much quicker.
“I was doing it all by hand and now instead of taking all this time it’s gone from five minutes to five seconds (per frame),” he said.
When processing more than 100 hives with 2,000 frames total, that’s a lot of time and money saved. Meg previously said the contest winnings saves them from several years of financing new equipment.
This spring and summer, Buddy anticipates managing about 120 hives with some room for growth.
“One-hundred-and-fifty hives is about what I can handle,” he said.
With their many successes since starting Sequim Bee Farm in 2014, the couple has experienced some setbacks.
They were victims of vandalism in 2016, when 20 hives were killed at their home.
Honeybee populations continue to see major losses nationwide, Meg said, with an average of 40 percent of hives lost each year to invading insects, weather, and/or many other factors.
She said they lose on average about 30 percent of their hives each year with an even larger hit in 2019 due to the heavy February snow.
Yellow jackets remain a major antagonist of bees, too.
“They were really bad last year,” Buddy said. “They’re getting stronger and the honeybees are getting weaker.”
To combat that at his hives, Buddy said he’s restricted the entrances so that only a few bees can get in at a time. If a yellow jacket tries to enter, the smaller entrance gives bees a better chance to attack it.
He plans to keep an eye out for weakening hives and to replace the queens in hope of strengthening each hive.
“Breeders are always trying to breed them stronger,” Buddy said.
The DePews are also on the lookout for another looming threat. The Asian giant hornet has been spotted as close as Blaine. They said they’re keeping abreast on the situation and sightings through the Washington State Beekeepers Association.
Sequim Bee Farm remains chemical free and maintains that policy at the lavender farms’ hives Buddy manages at B&B Lavender Farm, Cedarbrook Lavender Farm, Fat Cat Lavender, Flourish (formerly Lost Mountain Lavender), Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm and Washington Lavender Farm.
They might add another farm this season, too, they said.
Meg said the couple separates the farms’ lavender honey so that it’s specific to each gift shop. Come Sequim Lavender Weekend, she said, people are fervid for lavender honey.
For more information and/or to make an order, call 360-460-2341 or visit sequimbeefarm.com.
A full list of 2020 Good Food Award Winners can be found online at goodfoodfdn.org/awards/winners.
For more information about the Soroptimist Gala Garden Show, visit sequimgardenshow.com.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].