Four years ago, holding a honey festival in New York City was nothing more than a good idea in Chase Emmons’ head.
Emmons, 46, said he wanted to see a week-long festival devoted to honey in New York City similar to apple and honey festivals near his second home in Western Massachusetts.
“It’s my baby, and now taken on a life of its own,” Emmons said.
Three years after the first Honey Fest was held on Rockaway Beach, the city's first week-long event kicks off on Monday, Sept. 8 and runs through the following Sunday, Sept. 14. Events include tours of local apiaries, talks on bee-keeping, lessons on how to infuse local honey in cocktails and Honey Fest.
Emmons is the managing partner at Brooklyn Grange, which runs rooftop farms in Brooklyn and Long Island City that produce more than 50,000 lbs. of organic produce annually, and is home to 40 beehives. The 46-year-oldhas been keeping bees for about 10 years, hooked ever since an enthusiastic friend in Vermont – an ex-Nike exec – got his own beehive and invited him to come check it out.
Bees were re-legalized in New York City in 2010 after a decade-long ban. Emmons says the decision coincided with the urban agriculture movement to create a “perfect storm” for younger people to get involved.
“Portland has their backyard chickens; New York City needed something a bit more edgy,” Emmons said. In the last few years, bees have become a “hip” but important pastime, helping New Yorkers who have perhaps never grown a tomato to connect with nature and the planet at large.
Not everyone who cares about the environment is in the financial position to buy an electric car, Emmons said, but keeping bees, or growing produce from scratch, can “make a dent” in one’s “food experience.”
“All these different things you’d never think of before all have to do with the food system as a whole,” Emmons said. “It’s an enlightening hobby that brings you up to speed with the systems we all rely on.”
By law, beekeepers have to register their hives with the health department. Levi Fishman, deputy press secretary for the NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, said there are 99 registered beekeepers in the city with a total of 261 hives. Emmons, however, estimates the number is probably double that.
“They’re so easy, easier than having a cat,” Emmons said. “You just set the bees up and they basically do their thing.”
More information on NYC Honey Week, including a complete event list, can be found at http://www.nychoneyweek.com/.