Joanne King: The Mother of the Queens

Many would call Joanne King a legend of the Honey Queen Program. Serving as chair for seventeen years of a program that’s only been alive for fifty three is certainly a memorable accomplishment.  As stated by Charlotte Randall, her friend and fellow Honey Queen Committee member, “I won’t be able to tell you anything that Joanne doesn’t know”.  With a voice full of warmth and wisdom, a gentle inquisitive nature, and abounding kindness, it’s no wonder King was such an iconic leader. She began her Honey Queen career as chair of the Wisconsin State program and was soon after appointed to be national chair.

“Truly wonderful” is how King describes the Honey Queen Program, saying that the relationships and experiences she received from the program are worth “more than money”.  Since the chair is an unpaid position, this type of enthusiasm and dedication is crucial in a chair. King loved the challenge of learning to relate to young college age women and have them feel they could relate to her. As a result she formed lifelong friendships with many of her honey queens and learned a lot about the beekeeping industry in the process.

Through the Honey Queen Program, she’s more conscious of how busy commercial beekeepers are and how little time there seems to be to promote honey consumption. That’s why the chair is so important. They help select, coach, and support a new Honey Queen every year to be the face of the American Beekeeping Federation educating and promoting honey consumption to the general public. King oversaw honey queens that were talented public speakers, enthusiastic learners, and great with public relations. One of her queens even went on to become Ms. Agriculture! Guiding them to live up to their potential, King said “every girl was outstanding in her own way”. She has a knack for making everyone feel this way; by the end of our conversation I was ready to become the next honey queen.

A passion that began with a 4-H project when her son was 11 turned into a lifelong occupation for King. She decided to resign from her position as honey queen in order to devote more time to the family beekeeping business (King’s Honey Co), which she runs with her husband and two Honduran workers in North Dakota. She’s worried for the future of beekeeping since CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) reserves are being plowed down to be made into grain land which diminishes beekeepers pasture. They pay rent (in honey) to fifty different land owners in the region and the majority of their honey gets sold in 55 gallon barrels by the semi load to honey packers.  Now that she’s “average age,” she told me she loves having visitors and didn’t hesitate to invite me over whenever I’d like. If the cake that she was baking while we talked tastes as good as it sounded, I’m sure we’ll meet very soon.

Charlotte Randall: Sweeter than Honey

If you’re ever in Umatilla, Florida there’s someone you must meet. Charlotte Randall, charming, generous, interesting, and retired chair of the national Honey Queen Program will gladly share her abundant knowledge about beekeeping and the program that keeps it alive. She calls beekeeping “the most fascinating business,” and is quick to remind you that ninety percent of what you see on your table is pollinated by bees.

Randall married into a beekeeping family in 1958. She first became involved with the Honey Queen Program on the local level, and moved up to become National Chair. Her husband’s role on the board of the Sioux Bee Association and the National Honey Board, along with her own role on the Nomination Committee for the National Honey Board made Randall a valuable and knowledgeable member of the Honey Queen Committee for over twelve years. The National Honey Board is a USDA supervised federal research and promotion board that strives to increase awareness of honey and its benefits in order to maintain a strong market. Randall’s knowledge in this area gave her insight into the Honey Queen selection process. She was such a valued member of the  committee that she was then nominated Honey Queen Chair and served in this position for two years.

As Honey Queen Chair, Randall’s primary role was being there for the Queens and Princesses if they ever needed anything. The Chair is responsible for helping facilitate travel, functions, and housing for the American Honey Queen during her yearlong reign. She organizes the judges and voting process for the annual Honey Queen Competition and heads the Honey Queen Committee. As a previous Honey Queen Committee member, she was able to facilitate its role in selecting the judges, supporting the Queens and Princesses from each state, receiving applications, and participating in the ABF Conference. The Chair is also a resource for future and past Queens and Princesses, as well as at large members that may have questions regarding the program. In addition to keeping her Queen’s spirits high, Randall spoke about the inspiration she received from them as they tried new things and sought new experiences.

Charlotte Randall is quick to sing the praises of the Honey Queens she supervised during her time as Committee member and Chair. She boasted their successes as anesthesiologist and commanders in the army where they utilized the valuable skills they acquired in their role as National Honey Queens. She feels the Honey Queen Program is a beneficial stepping stone to future careers as it gives the girls a chance to travel, become adept public speakers, and open their eyes to trying new things. She also touted the queens’ extensive knowledge of the American Beekeeping Federation and beekeeping in general. Randall’s role as selfless guiding light to these young girls is apparent in her statement that “watching them do good makes you feel good”.

Despite her love of the beekeeping industry, Randall recognizes its challenges. Trying to support three sons on the family hives and beeswax business wasn’t enough and she sold it seventeen years ago. However, she continues to live in Umatilla and positively impact her community through cooking at an adult center and volunteering at her church.

Interview with Mary Kettlewell (daughter of Esther Peichowski)

Mary Kettlewell is a mother and wife living in Suburban Milwaukee and working at Northwestern Mutual IT. She is also the daughter of Esther Peichowski. On September 26th, after an long and round-about email chain we sat down, phones glued to ears, to talk about Esther. Esther Peichowski was not only an amazing person, but was also way ahead of her time. She married a beekeeper and moved to a tiny town. Esther embraced the industry and had the foresight to realize the huge potential for representing it. She knew that if she got out and spoke herself she wouldn’t get much attention, and sought to develop a position that would fill this void. The position was that of Honey Queen, and she envisioned that she would act as a spokesperson. Esther was an instrumental part in the creation of the Honey Queen (HQ) Porgram. And so the conversation began…


Q: What are the most significant differences between the local, state, and national level competition?

A:  At the local level, the candidates did not have to be well-versed, but a strong ability to present and speak well was expected. They received training from local beekeepers that sponsored them. At the state level, some experience and knowledge of the beekeeping industry was assumed, and the candidates underwent three days of hands on experience (including practice presentations). At the national level, the young women must enter fully prepared and some

Training, They are expected to know facts, explain well, and deliver the message. The training lasts between five and six days and is immersive and rigorous. By national level, most are beekeepers themselves, while some have never been that close to the bees.


Q: How does one hear about the Honey Queen program?

A: Initially by word of mouth, personal contact, occasionally media releases;             some outreach work was done through county structure-youth agencies. Less than 50% of HQs come from beekeeping families and in the last years in  Wisconsin less than 30%.

Q: What are the motivations to participate?

A: Several. One stems from the intriguing and fascinating nature of the         beekeeping industry and society. Bees produce such pure honey. This hooked            many girls attention. The opportunity to expand one’s experience is also important. Some have gotten credit from Colleges (one Queen got 6 credits in independent study).

Q: In ten years, what do you think will have changed in the beekeeping industry?

A: I always hear people saying that the program is outdated (largely because od          crown/banner), but I know that because of professionalism there will always be a role for      this person as a spokesperson and still see the program being very valuable. The program       has evolved a lot and adapted to societal and technological change, like by introducing        social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, etc.).

Q: Who are the judges of the HQ competition?

A: There are always three judges at each Honey Queen competition. Esther put a lot of effort into ensuring that someone from the outside (of the industry) was brought in with a media background (such as a reporter). The second is someone within the industry, and the third might be someone local. On a state and national level the judge will never come   from the hometown of any of the participants, for the matter of objectivity.

Q: How did the HQ program start and why?

A: In 1959 the first American Honey Queen was chosen and given a banner, to          identify her title, and a crown. In Wisconsin, Esther Peichow developed the HQ        program at the sate level, and the first Wisconsin Honey Queen was crowned in        1957. Peichow next expanded the program to the national level by highlighting   the potential of the program, as well as its relatively low cost, the opportunities to      go into venues and present marketing. Her platform was accepted and developed into a committee. The program started at a grassroots level and evolved. Marketing in its earlier days was one of the programs greatest faults. Historically, Southern states were ‘better’ represented due to their established culture of Beauty Queens, rendering the HQ Program fairly well received.

This was only an excerpt of the lengthy and incredibly informative conversation that I was so lucky to have had with Mary! I hope you enjoyed hearing part of it too.






Anna Kettlewell

Anna Kettlewell was the Wisconsin Honey Queen during the 1999-2000 season and the National Honey Queen from 2000 to 2001. She is from Greenfield, Wisconsin, a suburban neighborhood of Milwaukee. Her grandparents were commercial beekeepers who had a tremendous impact on her life. Bees had always been around (with about 50 hives maintained by her and her family near their home) and ever since she became aware of the program, she wanted to be a Honey Queen. Her grandmother was chair of the National Honey Queen program and helped start the Honey Queen program in Wisconsin.

Kettlewell was a senior public administration major at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay when she took a semester off to become the National Honey Queen. After achieving this title, Kettlewell  traveled from Florida to Colorado to Tennessee, and many places in between. She stopped in urban as well as rural areas with a visit to Baltimore for a Department of Agriculture open house. “We were spokespeople for the industry,” Ms. Kettlewell explained, “we would visit with school groups and go to fairs. It was quite fun.”

Wherever Ms. Kettlewell went, attention was sure to follow. She was interviewed by numerous newspapers, reporters, and radio hosts. She had gotten the training for it, too. Publicity was one of the reasons for the program since the beginning. Media outlets would be quick to interview a young, attractive woman with a curious occupation. With a small budget to pay for travel, honey queens could generate significant value in the form of newspaper articles and airtime.

Not only did the media fancy Ms. Kettlewell, but so did the general public. Honey queens need to always be at the top of their game when participating in the competitions at the different state fairs. “You always had to be on your toes,” described Ms. Kettlewell, “because they didn’t revealed the identity of the judges until the final interview. At the fair, anyone could be a judge so you always had to smile and be polite.”

Ms. Kettlewell described herself as initially a shy person. However, through the Honey Queen Program: the large amount of necessary interpersonal communication and always being on display, she was able to find her voice and develop her public speaking skills.

Ms. Kettlewell appreciated her time as a Honey Queen and was so invested in it that she remained involved with the program and is now the chairperson of the National Honey Queen Program.

Kettlewell in a 1999 publication of the Greenfield Observer