Bob and Michael Newswander, of Preston, are being featured in a national drive to encourage Americans to know who their honey comes from. Among the 270 members of Sioux Honey Association Co-op, the father/son Newswanders were selected to be two of the faces of the “Who Does Your Honey Come From” campaign, which started Dec. 17.
“It’s not just where your honey comes from that matters. It’s who,” said Rob Buhmann, chairman of the Sioux Honey Board. “Sioux Honey comes from people like the Newswanders who are producing top-notch Idaho honey. These families are running solid operations, and they are committed to making only the highest-quality product.”
Beyond introducing local beekeepers through the campaign, the co-op is advocating for consumers to look at the label when buying honey, to know who and where it comes from, and to keep an eye out for the “Grade A” and “Product of the U.S.A.” designations.
“Grade A” is the highest grade awarded by the UDSA, and “Product of the U.S.A.” is a guarantee of the country of origin. Combined, the labels confirm honey is pure, with nothing added, and of the highest quality, said Buhmann.
“Our philosophy is to give the bees all of our attention,” Bob Newswander said. Michael quit his engineering job to join the family business. The Newswanders joined the co-op in 1970 to get their honey to the market and allow them to focus on taking care of the bees.
Both Bob and Michael appear in the middle of the nationwide ad, which highlights the challenges of beekeeping and the persevering nature of America’s beekeepers.
“There’s nothing like working for yourself and dealing with a wonderful creation of nature,” said Michael. “I don’t know what’s better than being outside digging in a beehive, building beehives, pulling the honey off at the end of the year.”
“We are a family business, and we hire local people to do our job,” he said. Sioux Honey Association is made up of the same type of businesses. “There seems to be a trend that people are interested in supporting smaller businesses,” he said
Newswander Apiaries manages about 8,500 beehives placed in the summer months on private land from Hyrum, Utah, to Grace and Bear Lake, Idaho.
Located at 720 W. 200 North, in Preston, the 25-year-old company shipped over 74,000 pounds of honey to the co-op this year, a value of about $134,000.
Because last summer was so dry, 2018 wasn’t one of the company’s best seasons, said David Jeppsen, Micheal’s brother-in-law and partner. Bob has retired from the business. The company employs four full-time people and a couple of part-time seasonal employees.
During the winter, the company houses the hives in a temperature-controlled, dark warehouse. In February, the bees are trucked to almond groves in California where they begin their business of pollination and honey making.
In Idaho, 3.3 million pounds of honey is produced annually from an estimated 143,000 hives.
Although the attention given to bee die-offs has fallen off, said Micheal, the problem hasn’t abated. “We’ve just learned how to deal with it. Every spring we buy new queens to create new hives. We bought 5,000 this spring. You just have to outrun the hives that die.”
The industry is still losing about 40 percent of its hives, said Michael.
The Newswanders can be seen in the Sioux Honey Association’s promotion at siouxhoney.com.