Retirement a honey of a deal for couple

AFP Correspondent

CLARKSBURG (July 1, 2015) — Based on feedback they’ve gotten around the state and at American Bee Federation conventions around the country, where they’ve won second place consistently over a number of years, the husband-and-wife team who operate Trapper’s Honey in Clarksburg, Monmouth County, know they made the right decision a dozen years ago to focus on producing honey at their 30-acre farm.
“This is just plain, old-fashioned raw honey. We don’t do anything to it except strain it, to get the particles of bees out of it,” explained Anna Trapani, co-owner with her husband, Angelo, of Trapper’s Honey LLC in mostly still-rural Clarksburg.
Angelo was raised in Millstone Township nearby and Anna was raised in Groveville, a section of Hamilton Township in Mercer County near Trenton.
“We were both raised on farms, and my father had bees,” said Angelo. Like a lot of couples who’ve been happily married for many years, [46,] both Angelo and Anna complete each other’s sentences when speaking.
“We had blueberries here and figured we needed some bees here so the bee and honey business grew out of that, we kind of expanded from there,” said Angelo, noting he retired to Trapper’s Honey LLC after 40 years at General Motors. “All that time, it was Anna who ran the farm,” he added.
The couple has been on their tract of preserved farmland since 1977. They have about 50 hives in back of one main manufacturing facility, which includes a honey extractor, bottling machines and refrigerators.
They’re accompanied everywhere by their dog, Lucy, a friendly soul who barks when the rain starts pounding on the roof of their manufacturing building.
Deliberately, they said, “we’ve stayed small and used the least amount of outside labor, cause that can be a pain in the butt. We want to keep it simple and you can’t get farm help all that easily.” Their son Cosimo, now 45, went to Boston College and is a sought-after accounting consultant.
“We teach classes in how to make honey and we’ve won a lot of awards around the state and we won at the nationals at ABF a few years ago,” Anna pointed out. They produce three distinct types of honey and a honey spread that has the consistency of soft butter. They even make a hot honey that has bits of jalapeno and habanero peppers in it. All are distinctive. They manufacture bees wax candles in the thousands because what else can one do with all that wax in the hives when the bees are done with their job?
“Everybody just seems to love our honey, so we just kept expanding this, and we’ve done quite well with it,” Anna said, while Angelo added, “we don’t have all the bees here, just a nursery here, and we still grow grain and hay here because that’s a lot easier than many other crops.”
Is it fair for us to say the company grew organically, based on local demand for local honey?
“Actually, there is no such thing as organic honey in the state of New Jersey,” Anna pointed out, “the bees fly in a six mile radius from the hive, so you don’t have any control over where they go. The only organic honey you can find in the U.S. is from Brazil.”
People don’t understand that bees aren’t making honey unless flowers are blooming, so needless to say, May, June and early July are very busy times of the year for the Trapanis.
Anna placed bottles of spring, summer and late fall honey on the table and pulled out her plastic sampling spoons, much as she would if the couple were at a farm market.
“We do a number of farm markets in the summer time and even if it doesn’t help your allergies or other conditions, you’ve got something good to taste,” Angelo said, noting his doctor buys honey from Trapper’s LLC all the time.
Honey from the grocery store shelf just doesn’t compare with fresh, raw honey from Trapper’s, Angelo explained, because larger food manufacturers are concerned with shelf life and they don’t want their product to crystalize on store shelves.
“They heat it up and boil all the helpful enzymes right out of it, so you can taste the difference in this raw honey and stuff you’ll find in the store.”
Angelo Trapani is vice president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association and editor of the group’s newsletter.
There are about 3,000 beekeepers in the state, most of them backyard beekeepers who don’t do commercial honey production on the scale the Trapanis do.
Trapper’s Honey can be found at Etsch Farms in Monroe, Battleview Orchards in Freehold, and the pair are out at farmer’s markets around the state, including ones in Manasquan, Freehold, Lakehurst, Hoboken, and Hightstown.
They also lend their hives out to farmers to help them pollinate their crops. Whereas there are about 50 hives in back of the manufacturing building, Trapper’s has loaned out 200 other working hives to farmers around the state.
What about the problem with mites that have infiltrated bee hives all over the country, including many hives in New Jersey and elsewhere around the Northeast?
“It’s a certain kind of mite that came over from Asia, they think in the 1980’s and now, it’s all over the place. The mites are very smart; they go into the cell and lay their eggs there. The bees are born deformed and their mouths are deformed and the hive population goes down,” he said.
To control mites, the couple split their hives into smaller hives in April and May, and treat for mites early in the season. This also helps to keep the bees from swarming.
“We know we can’t get all of them,” Anna said, “and so far, there is no silver bullet for this problem, this has been going on for some time. When I was five years old, my Dad had problems with mites in his hives.”
“We make new hives every year and we split the hives to make another hive and we put a different queen in there,” Angelo said, “you have to do it because it’s a natural process.”
Their most popular product is likely their honey spread, and Anna said the old-timers call it creamed honey, though it contains no dairy products. The honey spread is made at 57 degrees, a cooler temperature, until the sugars in the product change the consistency of it, making it more spread-able and less pour-able.
“We have cranberry, raspberry, blueberry and cinnamon varieties, as well as plain honey,” Anna noted. If honey has crystallized, you simply add warm water to the outside of the jar and it returns to its former pourable consistency.
“It’s the only food we have that never goes bad,” Angelo noted, while Anna chimed in, “they actually found honey in the pyramids in Egypt. It was crystalized, but it was still good.”