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.

Kelly Klick (Tjepkes)

Kelly Klick (formerly Tjepkes) is from the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She had no prior experience with beekeeping (except an appreciation for honey), but one of her teachers at North Hennepin Community College suggested she look into the competition though she’d never considered doing anything like the honey queen program but thought, “why not?” In order to prepare she studied a lot of books that her teacher lent her and she took an introductory course in beekeeping at the University of Minnesota.

Kelly was 20 when she became the Minnesota Honey Queen and the following year, when she was 21, she won the national competition. She was the only contestant in the Minnesota competition but once she made it to the national competition, she had 7 or 8 other competitors. Her biggest challenges in the program were getting over being nervous in front of large groups of people, adjusting to different food, cultures and climates while she was traveling. Prior to her reign and tour, Kelly had never been outside of Minnesota. She most enjoyed the visits to the coasts, especially California and Texas. She also joked that sometimes she would be touring in places without cell service and that was quite difficult. Though there were challenges, she overcame her shyness and became much more comfortable speaking in public.

Kelly especially enjoyed of her conversations with kids about how honey is made. Meeting beekeepers around the country was also an incredible experience for her. They were really friendly and truly wanted to teach her because “they knew that I was the way to get information to the media and to the public.” Kelly explained her role as an “ambassador” to advertise and promote the industry. She mentioned that in some ways, Colony Collapse Disorder was helpful for the industry because it got people’s attention and showed them just how vital beekeeping is to agriculture. One of her favorite quotes is by Einstein: “if honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years.”

Kelly’s experience as honey queen made her much more aware of the industry herself as she formerly had no interaction with it. Now she always buys honey from local sources rather than at the grocery store, she still talks to people at fairs and helps chaperone new Honey Queens and Princesses when they are in town. Once she and her husband move from their apartment into a house she plans on having her own hives. Until then, she has become friends with a beekeeper at her church. With her background as honey queen, she has advised him on technical beekeeping things like checking for mites, smoking and taking out combs. In return, he’s given her more experience inside the hive.

Kristen Lang (Miller)

Kristen Lang (formerly Miller) grew up in suburban Pennsylvania but because her father worked as the county extension director for Penn State and kept bees as a hobby, she grew up around bees. When he retired in the late 1980s he turned his operation into a full time apiary called Beaver Valley Honey. With this experience under her belt, Kristen Kristen entered and won the Pennsylvania state honey queen competition in 2003 and the national competition in 2004. She was queen when she was 23.

To prepare for the competitions Kristen did a lot of preparation, asking her dad a lot of questions about the technicalities of beekeeping and working with Maryann Frazier who is the Senior Extension Associate of Penn State and acted as a mentor to Kristen. Ultimately, she says, she was motivated to participate in the program because she really believes in the industry and thinks it is an “awesome opportunity to educate people about the honey industry.” She also emphasized how great the Honey Queen program is for encouraging girls to build self-esteem, confidence and healthy relationships. Indeed, Kristen grew very close to her second in command, Honey Princess Kelsey Limerick. Kelsey even attended her wedding!

As Queen, Kristen’s primary responsibility was to educate individuals about honey and beekeeping. She toured the US, making stops in various schools, fairs and other venues to give presentations. She most enjoyed the opportunity to meet and learn from beekeepers and working with school-aged kids. She was pretty nervous around the beekeepers who had been beekeeping their whole lives but she was excited about the challenge to learn from them. Kristen performed her queenly duties while she was still taking a class at Penn State, where she studied graphic design. The Honey Queen program gave her the opportunity to do a number of things she otherwise would never get to experience like grafting queen bees and trying apitherapy—an alternative medical treatment that involves being stung by a honey bee.

Looking to the future of the beekeeping industry, Kristen things a lot of things will change. For one thing, she sees a back to nature movement getting more people interested in the bee industry, creating a greater demand for local honey and more communities of beekeepers. She also explained that Penn State has been researching different bee diseases and Colony Collapse Disorder in order to make a healthier bee. Bees continue to play a role in Kristen’s life now. She currently works in graphic design and photography. She sometimes photographs honey and is currently working on a website design for her father’s apiary.

Kari Boyce, Honey Queen ’82

At twenty years old, Kari Boyce became a queen- a Honey Queen, that is. Born and raised in the suburban Minneapolis Area, Kari served as Minnesota Honey Queen in 1981 and proudly took home the national title for her home state in the 1982 American Honey Queen pagaent.

From cradle to crown, Kari has been immersed in the beekeeping industry her entire life- both of her father’s parents were beekeepers. And thats actually how her grandparents met- Kari’s grandfather, Melford Olson, bought bees from her grandmother! Melford went on to start his own business,  MEL-O Honey Company in 1923, which Kari’s father and uncle ran and eventually sold in the late 1990s. To this day, the MEL-O name still sticks on honey bear bottles, under the managment of Sweet Harvest Foods, which states to be “focused on uncompromised quality and discriminating taste since 1923” as well as a “local honey company…transformed into a healthy foods producer serving the largest retail, wholesale and food service companies in the world with an array of high-quality products.”At the age of 76, Boyce’s father, Roger Olson, is still a beekpeer and was recently named Minnesota Beekeeper of the Year 2012.2 Kari’s brother, Steve, also keeps bees. Kari boasted that she and her cousin Angie (Olson) Lundeen are the only cousin Honey Queens in Minnesota and nationally! Angie was crowned 1999 MN Honey Queen and 2000 American Honey Queen.

Citing her dad’s family history in beekeeping and honey packaging, Kari warmly noted that all things bee have “always been a part of my life.” However, she became familiar with- and later motivated to compete in- the Honey Queen program through her grandmother’s lifelong dream, to see one of her granddaughters one day become a Honey Queen. “I had never heard of the competition before, despite growing up in the beekeeping industry” admitted Boyce, “She passed away the day before my 18th birthday (contestants had to be 18 to compete) and I was her oldest grandchild so I felt like this was really something I wanted to do.” She was about 16 years old when she heard of the competition and it was a few short years later, around the time Kari was 18 or 19 years old when the HQ program called her up at college.

Kari noted that the competiton tests how well you can communicate and promote the beekeeping industry. When asked how she prepared for the competitions, the ex-Queen humbly remarked that she “didn’t realize the knowledge I already had.”  She said that her “learning curve was shallow compared to other competitors, despite some of them growing up in the industry as well or being beekeepers themselves” but that she definitely felt she had an advantage understanding the industry, “My dad was a natural teacher. He would take us out to bee yards as part of Sunday drives and just share information as part of conversation.”

Kari participated in the Twin Cities Hobby Beekeeper competition (which no longer exists) before being crowned a state Queen for Minnesota in 1981 at 19 years old and finally making it to the national level. Although it was difficult to recall all of her fellow competitors, Kari did remember the Texas Honey Queen at the national competition, who was a professional beauty queen contestant and finalist in the U.S. Maid of Cotton pageant.Kari commented that “this struck me, because I never looked at the Honey Queen competition as a beauty contest but as more about the bee and honey industry.” Kari also remembers that the contestants from other honey bee-producing states like Wisconsin, North Dakota, Florida were represented by particularly well-versed young ladies who were brought up in beekeeping families as well. Boyce reminisced, “it was interesting to see the cultural differences and diversity of women across the nation; each state has its own flavor- this was fun and interesting to learn about!”

As a reigning Honey Queen, Kari described her major responsibiliies as “mainly a figure head” for beekeeping who “must present a positive, professional face for the industry.” Kari, along with her fellow Honey Princess, was also charged with educating the public in many areas ranging from the fact that honey bees are not ‘killer bees’ to the agricultural benefits of honeybees to the challenges facing this important industry.

Kari’s activities as 1982 Honey Queen were published in the national newletters for beekeeprs, in which that year’s Honey Queen and Princess write articles summarizing what the ladies do each month on behalf of the industry. The new royalty also appeared in her local community newspaper, covering Kari’s journey from her first local competition to national crown, in addition to radio interviews. During our conversation, Kari shared a sweet anecdote about one of her appearances on the WGN cable network, recounting it as a ‘fiasco’- “I was not much of a cook! Luckily it aired at 5am!” Though the queen nobly defended her crown, “I learned and got better at my cooking demos.”

Kari revealed that it was difficult to choose a single experience as the most valuable or memorable during her time as Queen. She did comment, however, that the people she met along the way were truly unforgettable, “So many people opened their homes to host me, having never met me and showed me such wonderful places and people.” Boyce also values the public speaking opportunities inherent throughout the entire Honey Queen journey- from competition to reigning year. These experiences have been beneficial through her career changes, Kari acknowledged, and “gave me the confidence to do things I may not have tried.” Interestingly, Kari remarked that her extensive travelling simultaneously proved to be the most enjoyable and most challenging part of her experience as Honey Queen.  While one trip spanned an exhausting 21 days on the road, Kari appreciates that she was able to see new places and meet wonderful people she otherwise would not have had the chance to.

Kari has remained peripherally involved with the beekeeping industry, as what she calls herself an “unofficial promoter.” She is on the list of people called to chaperone and ensure the safety and security of a Honey Queen when she comes to the Minnesota State Fair. She also crowned the new 2012 Minnesota Honey Queen, since it happened to be at the same time as her father’s coronation as Minnesota Beekeeper of the Year. Additionally, Kari has visited local schools to talk about beekeeping and honey production, bringing an observation hive (a glass case enclosed by a 8 x 14 inch square wooden frame with a frame of honey inside and live bees; shows parts of hive, interaction between bees, how they circulate around the queen, brood chamber of eggs; honey and pollen cells). Rather than changing the way she view bees and beekeeping, representing the beekeeping industry “made me more appreciative of the knowledge I already had” says Boyce.

Today, Kari is retired but working at Christian Investors Financial, a nonprofit consulting and financial institution, helping finance churches and ministries. Boyce does not see her crown gracing a family heir- her eldest daughter (25 years) is not interested in the Honey Queen program. Though her youngest daughter (20 years) is very interested in the program, she is also extremely invested in her education, very focused on finishing school and retaining her scholarship- and  would have to take at least a semester off of college in order to pursue a Honey Queen crown.

However, Kari still makes one of her favorite honey recipes, Honey Fruit Smoothies, for her children, one which her daughter even makes in her college dorm to this day. Kari also reminisced one of her favorite (and blue-ribbon winning) recipes from her mother – a baked snack mix with honey as a seasoning. But, Kari divulged that her all time favorite is simple: honey drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream and fresh fruit!

When asked to comment on how she thinks the beekeeping industry will have changed in ten years, Kari passionately responded supporting the importance of more organic gardening practices as well as the elimination of GMOs and pesticides, “If we dont move toward [these practices] there will be a dramatic change in the beekeeping industry, that is less healthy. We must get back to natural practices, abide by the circle of life.” Kari went on admitting, “if you asked me this 5 years ago, this is not what I would have said, but now as I learn more about nutrition and CCD, I am more and more convinced that we must follow nature’s cues and let nature heal itself.”

1 http://www.sweetharvestfoods.com/

2 http://post.mnsun.com/2012/09/one-honey-of-a-hobby-new-hope-man-named-minnesotas-beekeeper-of-the-year-for-2012/

3 http://www.pageantopolis.com/international/Maid.htm

Jill Clark, Honey Princess ’89

Growing up around rural Hershey, Pennsyvlania, Jill Clark knew bees.  Jill was raised in a beekeeping family, spending many hours tending bees and extracting honey with her father who has been keeping bees as a hobby for 47 years! To this day, Jill’s father enjoys beekeeping, maintaining anywhere from fifteen to forty colonies! Even Jill’s two sons have helped their grandfather with his bees- honey runs in this family’s veins!

In 1988, at only twenty-four young years of age, Jill was crowned Pennsylania Honey Queen, moving on to reign as American Honey Princess in 1989. Having grown up in a beekeeping family, Jill always knew about the Pennsylvania Honey Queen competition although she admits,

“I really did not compete for the PA Honey Queen title. There were no contestants in 1988 and the PA State Beekeepers handed me the crown and sash and asked me to do what I could.  I was a bit hesitant, but my Dad thought this was a great opportunity.  I think he saw it as a great father-daughter bonding experience.”

Jill also thought it would be a great opportunity to travel, meet beekeepers, and educate people about bees, beekeeping and honey!

As a Honey Queen and Princess, Jill saw her primary role as an educator. From travelling to schools, agricultural exhibitions, and state fairs, to making appearances on food television shows and radio spots, Clark clearly exhibited her major responsbility as educational provider/honeybee extraordinaire! To keep track of her acheivements, Jill has even compiled a scrapbook of her experiences as Honey Queen and Princess, including articles pubislished about her work.

Jill revealed that the greatest challenge of the competition and subsequent reigning time had to be learning to speak in public. “When I first started my knees would shake, but eventually you gain confidence,” she remarked. However, what Jill absolutely enjoyed the most was being able to travel around her home state of Pennsylvania as a Honey Queen and the entire nation as a Princess, sharing her love for honey and beekeeping with the public. She also enjoyed talking to school age children, reminiscing, “they’re the most willing learners!” Jill felt that her most valuable experience as Honey Queen and Princess was the tremendous impression she received from the beekeepers and their families she met as she travelled across the country,“Their hardwork, dedication and constant optimism helped me always see situations as a ‘glass half full’ not ‘a glass half empty.’”

Though years have passed since her days as Princess, Jill has remained involved in the beekeeping industry, warmly stating that she felt so fortunate and grateful to have the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Americam, thanks to the financial support of the American Beekeeping Federation “Thats a large reason why I have remained in the industry,” Jill remarked, “to give back as a thank you for all the support I was given when I was just a kid.” After graduating with an MBA from Ohio State University, Jill has been working at Dutch Gold Honey, Inc. in Lancaster, PA. Founded in 1946, Dutch Gold Honey is the largest, family-owned honey company in the United States today, offering many floral varieties of pure and all-natural honey. Check out their cool interactive website at www.dutchgoldhoney.com! Currently, the former honey royalty is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Dutch Gold as well as spokeswoman and Treasurer of True Source Honey LLC, “an effort to call attention to the problem of illegally sourced honey…and support legal, transparent and ethical sourcing.” Clark has also served on the National Honey Board, and as past president of the National Honey Packers & Dealers Association.

When asked to comment how representing the beekeeping industry changed the way she views bees and beekeeping or influence her decisions later in life, Jill actually did not think her views had changed- she was and always will be “that type of person who tells you to watch where you step- don’t step on the bees!” However, Jill hopes that in tens years’ time, the industry will change for the better if beekeepers have a better understanding of bees’ health and how to keep them alive despite colony disorders and diseases.

A natural Honey Princess at heart, Jill remains to be an active spokesperson for honey today! In September 2008, Jill co-led an evening workshop at the non-profit corporation, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA with Chairman of the Board for the Eastern Apiculture Society, past Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association president, and current beekeeper of over 140 hives, Jim Bobb. The event, titled “A Travelogue: A Taste of Honey,” gave an “introduction to the subtleties of honey, concentrating on regionally influenced taste, textures, bouquet, and color of honey.”  Exploring different regions of the United States, Jill and Jim spoke about beekeeping and honey making from a local beekeeper’s perspective as well as the subtle variations areas lend to honey and honey wine “mead.” With a focus on regional influences and the differences encountered from state to state, participants were able to experience these variations by tasting regional varieties of honey paired with chef-prepared treats. http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php?topic=18865.0;wap2

Jill also appeared in the 2010 summer quarterly edition of the The Speedy Bee, the Beekeeper’s Newspaper.The article speaks about the Honest Honey Initiative launched by five honey producers and importers, with its mission being to protect the wuality of U.S. honey and raise consumer awareness of illegally imported honey. The initiative developed a website, HonestHoney.com as an informational resource to supplement their cause.  Jill emphasizes the importance of knowing where your honey comes from, 

“We’re asking people who buy and love honey to find out more about how the honey they enjoy is sourced. By raising awareness of unfair trade practices and taking the Honest Honey pledge, we hope to protect consumers and manufacturers who use honey, and to preserve the fair honey trade…Honey has earned a special place in people’s hearts and minds as a wholesome, natural food.  We want to protect that reputation and quality.”  http://thespeedybee.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/2010-Summer-Speedy-Bee.pdf

In September of that same year, Jill was quoted in a press release by True Source Honey, “This is the kind of pressure we need to correct the serious problem of illegally traded  honey, which is threatening the continued viability of the U.S. honey sector.” http://www.truesourcehoney.com/newsroom/release_090210w.php

On May 16th of this year, Jill attended a roundtable discussion between various bee industry and packing company representatives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The meeting centered around the USDA’s denial of the previous Standard of Identity (SOI) for honey petition and proposal for a new petition that is hoped to be finalized and presented to the USDA. http://www.abfnet.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=188

A couple of months later, a Youtube video was published by the National Honey Board’s channel featuring the one and only… Jill Clark of Dutch Gold Honey! In the video, Jill explains that all honey will crystalize (it is a natural process), how honey is made and filtered through the paper filtration process. She also clarifies that honey is made of flower nectar, not pollen, as many people mistakenly assume. Finally, Jill ensures the viewer that the only way to know your honey is pure is to check the ingredient list- the only one listed, if any, should be honey! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDtClXCM1_I

Crown yourself a Honey Queen at home! For a (quick and easy!) royal honey indulgence of your own, be sure to check out one of Jill’s favorite recipes- Honey Butterscotch Krispies! http://www.dutchgoldhoney.com/recipe/desserts/Honey-Butterscotch-Crispies

Colleen Henson: Honey Queen’02

Colleen Henson (Texas)

The Honey Bee Queen’ 02

Colleen answered the phone with a chirp in her voice. We had been exchanging emails for quite a while but found it hard to find a time that worked for the both of us. There was a sigh of relief on both ends of the phone as we finally caught each other in-between class time – Colleen owns her own dance studio, Let’s Dance McGregor, and juggles her time teaching classes and organizing shows. We began by talking a little about the Honey Queen competition, enlightening me about the differences between the local, state, and national level competitions. She found the task of creating a honey marketing presentation the most challenging part of the competition, as ‘you just don’t know what the others are doing!’ Colleen decided to draw on her love for dance, and put together a 10-minute commercial that “danced the song of honey” through jazz. ‘The main story behind the dance was to show how the use of honey was adapted through the different generations – first from the grandmother to the granddaughter through cooking, followed by the granddaughter to her husband (in the military) through recipes and using honey as an antiseptic for his wounds’, Colleen explained.  Despite being a daunting experience for her, Colleen said she loved the rush of the competition, meeting a number of new people who were all motivated individuals just like herself.

When asked what spurred her to take part in the Honey Queen competitions, Colleen attributed a big motivation coming from her childhood years being constantly surrounded by beekeepers. By the age of 8, Colleen had already attended several bee workshops and became the local Honey Princess by the age of 12 – she had always dreamt of being the Honey Queen someday. Colleen mentioned that being the Honey Queen had taught her a lot; she was constantly meeting new people and being pushed out of her comfort zone, she learned to adapt and compromise in different situations to make the outcome as positive as possible. ‘The best part of the job is the relationships you build with others, not only do you touch people but they will touch you too’, Colleen cooed.

During her time as the Honey Queen, Colleen said she learned more about the honeybee and the honey industry than she ever thought possible! It opened to her many different opportunities, and she feels blessed and thankful for everyone she ever met during her travels. Although Colleen has not remained as involved with the beekeeping industry over the last couple of years – in part due to the start up of her dance company – she did serve on the Texas Honeybee chair committee for two years, and occasionally goes to conventions in the area. Colleen still cooks with honey all the time, her favorite recipe being the honey cream cheese pie and honey balls/cookies, and urges us all to try it!

Jona Green

Jona Green was somewhat of an anomaly in the Honey Queen competition. She was neither a beekeeper nor a member of a beekeeping family. Instead, when there were no applicants to be the Pennsylvania Honey Queen, the woman who chaired the selection committee (a friend of hers) asked her if she wished to become the Pennsylvania Honey Queen. She said that the program sounded like fun so she agreed to give it a shot. This was 1995. She lived in Lancaster, PA and was studying public relations at an undergraduate institution.

To get started, Ms. Green took a few weekend-long beekeeping “short courses” and read a lot to gain the knowledge needed to be a good Honey Queen. She started traveling in Pennsylvania and met many beekeepers. They were all knowledgeable and helpful and were willing to help her learn.

In January of 1996, she headed to Portland to the National Honey Queen competition. Her friend, the chair, told her to just have fun. There had never been a National Honey Queen from Pennsylvania before. She was told that Pennsylvania wasn’t a big enough beekeeping state and that it didn’t have the right political connections to earn a National Honey Queen. She went ahead, despite these inklings and had a good time at the week-long conference. She exited the interview that was the culmination of the competition feeling great. At the end of the competition, she was crowned the new National Honey Queen.

Ms. Green proceeded to take a semester off of college to travel the country as the Honey Queen. She was able to get some college credit, labeling her experience as an “externship”, even though she ended up graduating a semester late. She ended up traveling to 26 states, even making it up to Alaska. She really enjoyed the opportunity to travel and meet people from all over the country. Even though she went from Alaska to Florida to Massachusetts to Texas, she really saw the connecting ties that we have as Americans and as people. With her efforts, she and her Honey Princess were able to raise $200,000 worth of advertisements with a budget of only $20,000.

Ms. Green’s time spent as a Honey Queen was very valuable to her. It helped teach her interpersonal skills and problem-solving. It even helped her get on to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, a television game show. She made connections and learned to trust people . She was also given executive-level media training which helped her on her career path of public relations and higher education. She now works for a non-profit organization that deals with the rights of people at the ends of their lives. She is happy that she had the chance to be a Honey Queen and encourages all young people to get involved in representative programs, agriculturally based or otherwise!

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

Interview with the 1974 American Honey Queen

To become the national Honey Queen, a candidate must first be her own state’s Honey Queen.  The 1974 American Honey Queen (who wishes that I not disclose her name) is from Nebraska, although she didn’t compete to be the Nebraska Honey Queen.  Not long ago, I had a very enjoyable chat with her to talk about the Honey Queen program and her experiences, among other things.  Instead of competing in a state-wide competition, she told me, she met with a group of honey producers who asked her a series of questions and decided that she could compete in the national competition representing the Cornhusker State.  Her trip to the National Honey Queen competition was sponsored by the Nebraska Beekeeper’s Association and her grandfather who was a beekeeper himself.  Once there, she demonstrated her knowledge of beekeeping through a series of interviews.  Moreover, she was expected to maintain a positive and professional manner.  Clearly, she impressed the judges because she soon became the American Honey Queen.

As the national spokeswoman for the bees and honey (under the auspices of the American Beekeeping Federation), she had the opportunity to travel all over the country, meeting many people along the way.  For example, at the Texas State Fair, she stood in a booth devoted to bees and beekeeping, answering all of the public’s questions as quickly and as well as she could.  However, one of her biggest challenges came when she had to tactfully correct misinformation about bees and honey, such as exaggerated health benefits from bee products.  Being a young woman and an easy person to contact for an interview about bees and honey also opened doors to opportunities such as radio shows.  Also in her capacity as the American Honey Queen, she went to state fairs, parades, schools, and civic groups, to name a few.

The 1974 Honey Queen knew about the program from a very young age.  Her grandparents hosted Queens and she always thought it would be fun to do.  Once she became the American Honey Queen though, she assumed the responsibility that goes with the fun.  She had a few presentations (and props such as enlarged photographs) prepared to suit any crowd, such as young children or large civic groups.  The experience taught her to be self-sufficient and confident, as well as responsible and independent as she was away from her family for many of the events.  She described her time as the American Honey Queen as one of personal growth.  Having to be an educator early in her life is one of the most useful experiences that she took away from the program.

She has remained a member of the American Beekeeping Federation and since the late 1970’s, has maintained approximately 40 hives as a hobby.  The equipment she has is her grandfather’s but since the late 80’s, has not kept any bees because the diseases have made it cost prohibitive for her and her husband.  At the moment, she is employed as a professor but is considering using her retirement for beekeeping.

Alyssa Fine: Honey Queen’12

Alyssa Fine (Pennsylvania)

The Honey Bee Queen’ 12

Alyssa’s hectic and busy traveling schedule quickly became evident as we corresponded with each other via email, trying to find a time that suited the both of us for an interview. Philadelphia one week and then to Maine by the weekend, I actually caught her at the airport as she waited for her next flight. Alyssa grew up with honeybees in her backyard, as her father, Albert Fine, is a small-scale beekeeper. In the last 8 years or so, she started working more closely with bees, and works with her parents and sisters to run the Fine Family Apiary, family business, where she helps in developing beeswax cosmetics. Alyssa found the honey marketing presentation the hardest exercise during the Honey Queen competition. ‘It was nerve wrecking… you don’t know who the judges are so it’s really daunting!’ she shared. Alyssa kept repeating that competition at all levels is highly knowledge based, but as a candidate it is also important to show your ability in connecting with an audience to share that knowledge; it is for this reason that Alyssa decided to present her marketing presentation as an infomercial, promoting bees wax and its many benefits.

When asked how she first found out about the Honey Queen program, Alyssa explained that it was her father who had been in touch with an older Honey Queen and introduced the both of them. Their meeting has sparked off her interest in honeybees, and she found herself taking a beekeeping class while she was studying in Penn State to get some hands on training with the bees. A lot of her motivation to become Honey Queen came from within, ‘I’ve grown up with bees, and so have the previous queens, but what they have done I can do better’, Alyssa said with a giggle. Her self-motivation has paid off well and Alyssa has enjoyed the opportunity to travel and network throughout the entire country. She loves being the spokesperson for the beekeeping industry, and has also learned a lot more about the commercial beekeeping industry where previously she had only been exposed to small-scale farmers, such as her father.

‘Only now have I really realized how much we rely on bees, I most definitely have a new respect for beekeepers throughout the country’, Alyssa mentioned quite matter-of-factly. Alyssa’s passion for her job can be easily detected by her tone of pride in her voice, and you couldn’t help but imagine her fidgeting with excitement as she shared her favorite honey recipe – the blueberry buckle.