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