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.