CHAPTER XV Edit
MARKETING THE HONEY CROP Edit
AFTER the surplus honey has been gathered, whether it be comb or extracted, its proper grading, packing, and marketing is an important factor, as these things added to the quality of the crop will with a little attention mean the securing of a better price for the output, and whether the crop be large or small, is an item worth considering. Where the apiary is of moderate size, there is no better place to sell the crop than right at home or in a near-by town, as the reputation of the beekeeper, supplemented by a high-grade article, will result in high prices. The honey package should be attractive whether it be wholesaled or retailed, and a package a little more attractive than that of the other dealers means increased revenue.
If the crop is extracted and is intended for the commission trade or the wholesale bottler, there is no better package than new five-gallon cans, two of which come in a wooden case. Being in cans, it is more easily handled by the commission merchant and the bottler, and in this shape will bring a little higher price than if sent in wooden kegs with the attendant labor of scooping it out for liquefying. Use nothing but new, clean cans, and have the early light honey separate from the later dark honey; and be sure of the honesty of the commission merchant, for thereby hangs many a sad tale.
It will be far more profitable to bottle your extracted honey in an attractive bottle and work up a trade among the retail grocery houses, as it means securing about fifteen cents a pound net profit as against about seven cents a pound net profit when sold wholesale. The standard package for the retail is a glass jar holding just one pound, and a nicely printed label with a half-tone cut of the apiary and a statement of the purity of the honey will make for it a very ready sale. These jars can be procured from the manufacturers, and as they come in reshipping cases holding two dozen, each can be shipped very handily when filled.
By the time you are ready to bottle your honey it will in all probability be granulated, which in itself is a test of its purity; and to return it to its liquid state it will be necessary to heat it to about one hundred and fifty degrees and hold it there for about three hours ; but do not under any circumstances heat it above one hundred and sixty degrees, or you will spoil its delicate aroma and reduce its value. A large tin boiler or galvanized square can can be made at slight cost; it should be eighteen inches deep, and in this boiler over a gasolene or cook stove, with a block of wood underneath each can of honey, one or two of the sixty-pound cans can be placed, with their caps removed, and the boiler filled nearly full of water. When the water heats to the desired point, it should be kept there for about three hours, and when the honey in the cans is nice and clear, which it will be if it was properly strained at time of extracting, the little one-pound jars should be filled with the hot honey and capped at once, when they are ready for the stores to which they are to be sent.
A most excellent jar for this purpose is the Hazel Atlas Simplex, a jar with a glass cap and a waxed ring, and attractive to the eye. Another good package for the home trade, if a house-to-house canvass is to be made, is the ordinary quart preserve or canning-jar, and as the housewife can make use of this jar after it is emptied, this style of package will appeal to her.
The county fairs held in the fall form an excellent medium for the sale of honey, as the beekeeper can have a booth and an observation hive at hand with live bees in it, and such an exhibit will always attract a crowd. Sometimes it is a good thing to take the extracting cage referred to in another part of this book, and in it have a hive of live bees. The operator can then go through an interesting performance that will astonish the natives, and secure a large sale of his honey.
Other beekeepers take a little cage of live bees under their arms and visit the business offices of our large cities, taking orders for honey in gallon cans at $2 a gallon to be sent by express C. O. D. at the expense of the buyer; in this way a profitable employment is secured for the beekeeper during the entire winter months, with a larger profit for his honey than if it were sent to the city wholesale. Where the output runs up into many tons, it will be more satisfactory for the producer to send it to the cities in bulk, but even in this case there is no reason why the producer should not dispose of a large amount of his output to the grocery trade in bottles, and reap the benefits of the increased price secured. Generally speaking, there is seldom more than one beekeeper in business on an extensive scale in a given place, and he will have little difficulty in disposing of his crop at home and in near-by towns to both stores and families. This will necessitate the use of a horse and wagon, but the greater profit will make this plan advisable, and it is followed by hundreds of beekeepers every year. I know an old man seventy years of age, who puts his honey up in quart jars, and visits the factories and shops at the noon hour, giving a little talk on bees, who has sold as much as $2000 worth of honey in a single year. He gets fifty cents a quart for his honey.
Sometimes in a large city a vacant store on a busy thoroughfare can be rented for a month, and a display of live bees and honey will result in large sales at fancy prices, as bees are a source of interest to city folk. Department stores are good customers and are glad to have an exhibit of live bees in observation hives together with a nice display of honey, as such exhibits draw a crowd and result in business in all departments. With the new pure food laws in operation, the beekeeper is having his day, as he no longer has to compete with mixtures of honey and glucose masquerading under the name of pure honey, as was formerly the case. In the matter of honey these laws are rigidly enforced, and adulterated honey is required to have a statement on every package, stating just what the adulterant is and in what proportions. Few people will buy such stuff when they can secure the real thing at a moderate price.
Comb honey has to be prepared in an entirely different way to be placed on the market, and unless great caution is exercised in the matter of packing, serious breakage of the combs will follow. Each section should be carefully scraped of all particles of propolis, and the honey according to its appearance carefully graded and marked. The ordinary shipping-cases with glass on one side and corrugated paper in the bottom, and holding twenty-four sections, is the best all-round package that can be used, and these cases No-Drip Shipping-Case.
can be purchased at moderate cost from any of the supply houses that make them especially for the comb honey producers. Under no circumstances should these cases be shipped individually. A number of them should be packed in a crate with projecting strips for handles, and the bottom of the crate filled with at least six inches of hay or straw to act as a cushion for the honey and prevent its breakage in transit. It is the poorest of policies to face the glass end of each case with the best sections, and put the poorer ones at the back, as the trick will Shipping-Crate. sooner or later be discovered to the detriment of the shipper. A better plan is to select and grade all the best sections and put them in cases by themselves, and crate the poorer ones by themselves; the additional price of the first grade will average the price in a satisfactory manner.
In scraping the propolis from the sections nothing is better than a broad-bladed butcher knife. Unless you are careful, there will be more or less gashing of the surfaces of the sections with its resulting drippings, which will make them sticky and unsightly, and greatly reduce their value. Though there is no reason why there should not be a universal rule for grading comb honey, certain rules prevail of a twofold character, known as "Rules for Western Beekeepers," and "Rules for Eastern Beekeepers."
The Eastern Grading Rules read as follows: FANCY. All sections well filled: combs straight, firmly attached to all four sides; combs unsoiled by travel stain or otherwise; all the cells sealed except an occasional one ; the outside surface of the wood well scraped of propolis. A No. 1. All sections well filled except the row of cells next to the wood; combs straight; one-eighth part of the comb surface soiled, or the entire surface slightly soiled; the outside surface of the wood well scraped of propolis. No. 1. All sections well filled except the row of cells next to the wood; combs comparatively even; one-eighth part of the comb surface soiled, or the entire surface slightly soiled. No. 2. Three-fourths of the total surface must be filled and sealed. No. 3. Must weigh at least half as much as a full-weight section. In addition the honey must be classified according to color, using the terms white, amber, and dark ; that is, there will be, "Fancy White," "No. 1 dark," etc. These are the result of the action of the National Beekeepers' Association in convention in Washington, D.C., in December, 1892.
The Colorado Beekeepers' Association adopted the following rules, which prevail west of the Mississippi: NEW COMB-HONEY GRADING-RULES ADOPTED BY THE COLORADO STATE BEEKEEPERS ASSOCIATION
No. 1 WHITE. Sections to be well filled and evenly capped except the outside row, next to the wood; honey white or slightly amber, comb and cappings white, and not projecting beyond the wood ; wood to be well cleaned; cases of separatored honey to average 21 pounds net per case of 24 sections, no section in this grade to weigh less than 13^ ounces. Cases of half-separatored honey to average not less than 22 pounds net per case of 24 sections. Cases of unseparatored honey to average not less than 23 pounds net per case of 24 sections. No. 1 LIGHT AMBER. Sections to be well filled and evenly capped, except the outside row, next to the wood; honey white or light amber; comb and cappings from white to off color, but not dark; comb not projecting beyond the wood ; wood to be well cleaned. Cases of separatored honey to average 21 pounds net per case of 24 sections ; no section in this grade to weigh less than 13J ounces. Cases of half-separatored honey to average not less than 22 pounds net per case of 24 sections. Cases of unseparatored honey to average not less than 23 pounds net per case of 24 sections. No. 2. This includes all white honey, and amber honey not included in the above grades; sections to be fairly well filled and capped, no more than 25 uncapped cells, exclusive of outside row, permitted in this grade, wood to be well cleaned, no section in this grade to weigh less than 12 ounces. Cases of separatored honey to average not less than 19 pounds net. Cases of half-separatored honey to average not less than 20 pounds net per case of 24 sections. Cases of half-separatored honey to average not less than 20 pounds net per case of 24 sections. Cases of unseparatored honey to average not less than 21 pounds net per case of 24 sections.
It can be seen by the above that the rules for the eastern beekeepers are a little more discriminating than the western standard, and enable the buyer to form a clearer idea of just the quality of the honey bought. When producing comb honey for market, the beekeeper has several styles and sizes of sections from which to select, though in each case the amount of honey will be nearly the same. Formerly the square section with the slotted bee-way was the only one that was used, but there is a growing demand for a plain section a little taller than wide, measuring 4 x 5 x 1|- inches, and although this section is a trifle thinner than the old style, yet it appears to have more honey, and is being adopted more and more by up-to-date beekeepers.
There is a class of trade that demands that every section when it is packed shall be glazed, with pieces of glass fitted to each side of the surface of the wooden holder, and although they are a nuisance to prepare, it pays if the trade demands it, as a little higher price can be secured for the trouble, especially if a fancy paper border is used to secure the glass to the section. Where glass is not used, it is well to encase each section in a pasteboard carton, as it protects the honey and adds to the appearance of the section. If the faces of some combs are slightly stained, they can be bleached by placing them in a box or small room and fumigating them with the fumes of burning sulphur, or else they can be exposed to the direct rays of the sun, to accomplish the same result.