As the trend of seeking out local food continues to grow this spring, more people are heading to farmer’s markets and resident farms for fresh fruits and vegetables as an alternative to the import-controlled produce sections of warehouse-type chain stores.
“The interest in fresh nutritious foods is growing in Tuscaloosa,” said David Dowdy, a local honey producer in Tuscaloosa.
Dowdy is the owner of Crimson Hills Apiary and one of the farmers supplying Tuscaloosa’s increasing demands for locally harvested honey. Crimson Hills has 14 hives, which produce between 40 and 60 pounds of honey per season. Honey seasons are typically in full swing in April and May and draw a large crowd of consumers for the local products. It isn’t just a sweet tooth that brings some buyers to Crimson Hills Apiary though.
“About 90 percent of buyers talk about allergies,” Dowdy said.
“Honey is antibacterial and hydroscopic, which means it can absorb moisture from the air,” he said. “This allows the honey, when applied to a burn, to help heal the skin and prevent it from drying out.”
The honey is sold as “cut comb honey” – meaning the honeycomb is packaged with the product – in amounts ranging from the classic 12-ounce “honey bear” to a nine-quart jar for those who like to stock up. Crimson Hills also offers beeswax candles as well as a special product, creamed honey, that’s a favorite of Dowdy’s.
“Creamed honey is made through a special process, which allows tiny crystals to form in the honey,” he said. “This allows it to spread like peanut butter.”
For fans of Nutella, Dowdy said creamed honey might be a healthier alternate.
“I usually add dried fruit, but I’ve heard of chocolate being added,” Dowdy said.
Sheryl Leonard, another local seller, has just entered into the business of producing and selling local honey.
“I first got interested in bees for pollination,” Leonard said. “But then I caught a swarm of wild bees and bought some swarms, and after reading up on the whole [producing] process, began.”
Leonard, like Dowdy, recognizes the health benefits from the sweet syrup.
“I usually take about a teaspoon of honey each day because it’s good for lots of things,” she said.
While profit is one benefit of producing local honey, Dowdy said that’s not the only reason he is in the business.
“I enjoy working with bees because you learn something new every time you fool with them.”
Dowdy and Leonard’s products can be purchased at the Northport Farmer’s Market, which opens Saturdays at 6 a.m.