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.