Making a Buzz

Customers are swarming to buy
Bohman family’s honey products

The Hanover, Ind., company reaches
Indiana Artisan status

HANOVER, Ind. (May 2017) – The Bohman family of Hanover, Ind., teach that “honey is not just honey.” And the best place to learn the difference is at a “honey tasting” offered by an expert. Much like a tea tasting or a wine tasting, a “honey tasting” helps one discern the nuances of a locale, a bush or a berry; the depth, variety and artistry of honey from local bees. Artisanal honey. Where bees fly and what they ingest matter a lot. No wonder beekeeping and honey have inspired artists and poets for centuries. Bees are crucial to food and agriculture.
In Jefferson County, Ind., honey bees have achieved a unique “celebrity status.” In December 2016, Hanover beekeeper Kevin Bohman was named an Indiana Artisan. He was one of 11 people in the state awarded this honor because of the high quality of his Blackberry and Single Origin Artisanal honeys. Bohman is the creative force behind Bohman Bee Co., according to his mother, Danette Bohman.
Overall, Bohman now is one of 208 Indiana Artisans in 58 of Indiana’s 92 counties. In Jefferson County, there are six Indiana Artisans, including one foodist, two vintners and three artists. Jefferson County is in the “Top 10” counties for the number of artists in the state.

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Kevin Bohman and his mother, Danette Bohman, pose with samples of their honey products.

Last fall, experts in all aspects of food served on panels to review applications from Indiana’s highest quality food producers and artists. Bohman’s application “stood out,” according to Eric Freeman, director of Indiana Artisan Inc. The food judges were impressed by his “very unique ideas,” Freeman said, as well as by the fact that Bohman’s honeys are not infused.
“The blackberry flavor was very unique,” he said. “Judges had never seen anything like it before from a single source, like the blackberry bushes. The honey tasted good. The packaging was creative. It was very well done in every area.”
Bohman Bee Co. also participated in the recent Indiana Artisan Marketplace in Indianapolis and had a well-done booth modeled after a lighted honeycomb, Freeman said. They offered honey tastings that were well received.
Beekeeping has been in the Bohman family for four generations, according to the company’s website. Harry Bohman started keeping bees as a necessity, due to sugar rationing in World War II. His oldest son, Paul, continued as a hobby and taught beekeeping to his two sons, John and Paul. During the mid-1980s, however, Paul lost all of his bees. The family closed the hives and stayed out of beekeeping for 25 years. Later, they learned that they lost their bees because of “Colony Collapse Disorder.”  
In 2010, Paul’s youngest son, Joe, decided to try again, just to see if he could keep a few bees alive. He succeeded. The next year, his older brother, John, (father of Kevin), joined in and added more hives. With more hives, they were able to start selling honey to local stores. In 2012, John’s wife, Danette, and sons joined the team. The Bohman Bee Co. was formed. In addition to running the Bohman Bee Co., the family also has owned Pride Family Market for 29 years. They also opened the Down Home Country Store to sell the family’s raw honey and numerous other local and all-natural products.
Now the company owns and manages more than 200 hives in three counties of southern Indiana. They sell honey in more than 20 stores in Indiana and Ohio. “Each bottle captures the essence of a certain time and place in Indiana,” Kevin notes on his webpage. “With the changing seasons and floral sources, each harvest has a unique taste.”
Blackberry honey is gathered from apiaries on a 10-acre blackberry farm, located on the Jefferson-Ripley County line, Kevin said. The farmers ask for the bees in order to pollinate their bushes. In turn, the bushes pollinated by the bees produce unusually large blackberries, the Bohmans said.  At the end of the pollination season, the honey is harvested. It provides a truly unique flavor, raw honey.
“The Single Origin honey also is unique, Danette said. “My husband (John) will taste every hive that comes in. We have no idea where the bees have been. The Single Origin is a light, fluffy honey that we call our yummy honey.”
“We never know when a hive will create a uniquely flavored honey,” Kevin said. “It just doesn’t seem fair to blend this distinct honey with the rest. It is bottled separately and marked with a vintage tag listing the apiary, year and jar number. The making is limited and special, and this honey truly reflects the blossoms of the special Indiana areas from which our bees forage.”
The other honeys have labels that are inspired by locale, such as the Jefferson County Honey. Its label features the fountain in downtown Madison, Ind. Danette describes it as a “robust honey” because the bees inhabit a more wooded area, giving it an earthy undertone. The Batesville Honey and the Decatur County Honey both come from farmlands that are “a lot sweeter,” she said.
Batesville especially tends to be sweeter because one apiary is located near an Amish Greenhouse. Bees from the Decatur County plains produce a sweet flavor because of abundant locusts, blackberry bushes and occasional peaches.
These jars are labeled with the tree from the Decatur County Courthouse, while the label for Ripley County honeys feature a red covered bridge. The Bohmans make an Indiana Blend said to “capture the essence of “a certain time and place in Indiana with the changing seasons and floral sources.” 
The Bohmans do not process their honey because that requires them to filter and heat it, thereby removing health benefits.
Bohman honeys are available at Jungle Jim’s two stores in Cincinnati. In Indiana, the honey is sold in Greensburg, Batesville, Shelbyville, Hanover and Madison. Stores handling the product in this area include Pride Family Market in Hanover and these Madison stores: Herbs & More, Davis Nursery and Country Store, The Attic, All Good Things, Westport Locker City Meat Market, and at the weekly Farmers’ Market.

Despite losing their bees in the 1980s, the Bohman family remains hopeful about the future. “There is not any one cause for “Colony Collapse Disorder,” the family writes on its website. “But many blame pesticides, habitat loss and parasites.” They encourage people to help bees by planting flowers that attract bees, to stop using pesticides (such as neonicotinoids) and to start their own backyard beehives.

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