Farm, Family and Fresh Honey
Sep 01, 2022
Honoring National Honey Month with Clayton FarmsEllie Horn
Digital Communications Specialist
You've heard the expression “busy as a bee,” but you probably didn’t know beekeepers are just as busy! Ron and Judie Clayton of Grinnell can attest to that wisdom. While their operation, Clayton Farms, has traditional row crops, it is also home to their grandson’s FFA Boer goat herd … and a haven for honeybees.
Ten years ago, the couple sold their cow-calf operation. Around the same time, Ron took up beekeeping because it had always interested him. “My favorite school lunch used to be peanut butter and honey sandwiches,” he recalled. “My first stop at the Iowa State Fair is always the Iowa Honey Producers Association booth in the Agricultural Building.”
Ron enjoys taking care of his bees, but he admits it can be a lot of work. It’s important for bees to have sufficient access to water, especially when the summers are dry. Ron’s bees drink from the electric goat waterers, the farm pond and even the landscaping fountain by the house. He feeds his bees corn syrup, but many producers feed their bees a sugar water mixture. In addition to food and water, the bees have access to all of Judie’s beautiful landscape flowers and her vegetable garden. The bees are also active in the soybean field around the Claytons’ home. “I’ve heard that bees can increase bean yield by a bushel or two an acre,” Ron said. For a farmer who keeps bees as a hobby and for their honey, an increased bean yield is definitely an added bonus.
Judie may not be out caring for the bees herself, but she does her share by processing the honey. After hosting pheasant hunters at their in-home Clayton Farms Bed & Breakfast for 22 years, she has mastered the art of preserving natural sweets to serve at her table. In addition to canning honey, she makes treats like apple, pear and grape butter, as well as blackberry, strawberry and strawberry rhubarb jam.
Ron has three beehives containing 40 to 50 thousand bees each. A single hive can produce as much as 50 to 60 pounds of pure honey every year. Processing that much honey calls for all hands on deck. The Claytons’ kids and grandkids come over for a family honey harvesting day each September. Together, they spin the honey from the comb and place it in pint jars bearing the Clayton Farms label. Ron and Judie send the kids home with lots of honey. The remaining 30-plus jars go with the couple as they winter in Texas. There, they sell their honey, along with Judie’s preserves, to friends and locals.
Honey can be used as a natural sweetener in many recipes, but Ron’s favorite way to eat honey is to simply swirl it in a jar of chunky peanut butter. Judie enjoys the same—except with creamy peanut butter. This September, we encourage you to celebrate National Honey Month by cooking with honey and finding your own favorite way to enjoy it! For recipe ideas, check out the National Honey Board at honey.com. As for the Claytons, they’ll stick to making the honey they enjoy. In Ron’s words: “Beekeeping is hard work, but if you enjoy it, it’s worth it!”
Ron Clayton (pictured) and his wife, Judie, raise honeybees at Clayton Farms.
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