Fall in Love with South Dakota Honey
Honey is an ancient food and natural remedy that has been utilized for thousands of years. Not only do we eat this sweet treat, but it is also known for soothing sore throats and coughs and its antiseptic properties. South Dakota raised honey is available year-round through a variety of retailers or direct from producers.
Honey is considered a specialty crop along with other products like fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers. According to the S.D. Dept. of Agriculture & Natural Resources (DANR), there are 185 South Dakotans keeping bees in the state, with around 100 of these maintaining their bees for commercial honey production. South Dakota usually ranks in the top five states in the nation for total number of colonies.
Bernadette Barnaud, owner of Owl Creek Organics & Natural Products out of Nisland, S.D. in the northern Black Hills, sells local honey as well as jams made with honey, small honey gift boxes, and beeswax candles.
“South Dakota honey is one of the best available, especially the kind we produce. My dad and brother make sure to irrigate our pastures so the bees have plenty to forage throughout the summer. The plants, such as alfalfa and sweet clover from which the bees get nectar, make the absolute best honey around,” Barnaud said.
While working as a teacher in Minnesota in 2011, Barnaud signed up for her first honey beekeeping workshop. The following summer, Barnaud bought several hives and each year continued to increase numbers. She also started a market garden and sold produce at the farmers market in Rapid City, S.D.
“My interest in bees initially began because of my love for gardening. I had read that bees could increase vegetable production because the bees pollinate the flowers of the vegetable plants,” Barnaud said.
In 2014, Barnaud learned how to make jelly from her grandmother using wild plums she harvested. Initially she was using sugar to sweeten the jams, but as honey production increased she decided to try sweetening her jams with honey. With some trial and error her products came together.
“Some of my favorites are raspberry jam and grape jelly, but huckleberry and lingonberry are by far the most popular with my customers,” Barnaud said.
In 2018, Barnaud started making creamed honeys and added spices like cinnamon or dried wild berries like lingonberries or organic blueberries for flavor. She has added more specialty honeys including German chocolate cake honey and gingerbread honey. In the future she intends to experiment with making lemon poppy seed honey and different kinds of specialty jams like sea buckthorn.
Barnaud produces her own fruit as well as sources fruit from organic growers for her jams. She hopes to expand her fruit tree and shrub production, but also looks forward to sourcing more local fruit from organic producers in South Dakota.
You can find Owl Creek products at several different retailers including Lueders in Spearfish & Belle Fourche, SD; Lynn’s Dakotamart in Sturgis, SD; Staple and Spice in Rapid City, SD; and Bernie’s in Grand Forks, ND. Barnaud also attends the Town Square Farmer’s Market in Grand Forks and the Saint Paul European Christmas Market in December, as well as other occasional shows in the state and region.
In the past Bernaud sent her honey bees to California so they survived the winter. In 2021, she built an overwintering building in South Dakota to keep her bees at home. This year is the first year they have utilized the overwintering building. The bees will be brought back out in late March once the harsher temperatures are over. There is also a storefront in this building that is open for special events, and it will have set hours for shopping in the future.
“Today, I continue to learn and grow my business. I listen to my customers and try to make and sell products that they love or request to have made. My focus is on healthy products that make you feel good and give you energy to work. Thanks to my customers, I am able to keep doing what I love,” Barnaud said.
Owl Creek Organics & Natural Products is one of eight retailers involved in the Fresher is Fun! Campaign, organized by the S.D. Specialty Producers Association (SDSPA) through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant. The participating retailers all offer specialty crops sourced from multiple producers, increasing variety, access and convenience for customers. The campaign hopes to increase awareness and sales of South Dakota grown specialty crops.
To find a retailer selling local honey visit SDSPA’s retailer website, featuring farm stands, grocers and retailers carrying local produce, or visit SDSPA’s local food directory to find a honey producer near you.
This program will also support several events in 2024 showcasing specialty crops at retailer locations in Rapid City and Sioux Falls as well as an open house at Owl Creek Organics on Aug. 11, 2024. For more information contact SDSPA at 605-681-6793 or SDSpecialtyProducers@gmail.com.