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Harvesting Honey

April Martin

Life is like a box of freshly harvested honey. It takes a lot of time and effort to harvest, but in the end you are left with some of the purest, sweetest, most delicious honey imaginable.

There are currently eight high school interns working here at the Washington Youth Garden. Last week, I went along with them to the garden where they had the opportunity to harvest honey. The first step in harvesting honey is putting on the appropriate dress, of course. The interns were given bee keeper helmets and white long sleeve shirts. They were then taught to remove honey combs from the bee hives. Although some were nervous, they all participated.

Toni Burnham, the DC beekeeper teaching the interns about how to harvest honey, told us that bees cover each honey comb with wax so that the honey is preserved.  It can then last practically forever. She even told us that archaeologists had found preserved honey in King Tut’s tomb.  In order to get access to the honey, the interns used a special fork to remove the wax covering over the combs. I got my hands dirty helping with this stage. My fingers were sticky and my arms were splattered with honey—and I loved it.

The honey combs were then placed in an extractor. The interns cranked an arm on the extractor and as the container spun, the honey from the uncapped combs flew out onto the sides. It then seeped down to bottom and poured out into a filter. The result was honey heaven.

As I near the end of my summer here at the Washington Youth Garden, I can clearly see all the “honey” I have harvested. It took a lot to get here, but I am leaving with some of the sweetest and most precious memories. I am leaving with new skills and experiences that I will “cap” in my mind and use throughout my entire life. I am also leaving with a new-found appreciation for gardening.

 

My fascination with gardens and the people who run them blossomed here at WYG and it is continuing to grow. I have learned that gardening is gradually becoming incorporated into the daily life of many urban communities.  I recently went to a presentation describing the new approaches to urban ecology. The presentation proposed that we now look at a building as a garden, a community as a park, and a city as a landscape. As a society we have to learn to integrate nature with our cities in order to beautify, and purify our living space.

With this new approach in mind, the support for local and urban farmers is growing. The high school interns will have the opportunity to see local farming first hand this week when they visit Rocklands Farm. Rocklands is a local farm only thirty minutes away from downtown DC.  

If you would like to read more, I recommend an article on Elevation DC called “Meet DCs urban farmers growing food and profits” by Whitney Pipkin. She has highlighted stories from some other interesting local, urban farmers here in DC.

–Kelly Del Grosso