Beginning Organic Beekeeping Begins!
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Posted on July 14, 2011 in Beekeeping Classes | Short Link

Jenny Bach of Bee Love Apiaries co-taught the class with Richard Spiegel of Volcano Island Honey Co.

The Beginning Organic Beekeeping class taught by Richard Spiegel and Jenny Bach started on Saturday, July 9, 2011, with a new crop of 17 people—all enthusiastic about learning to work with the bees. The class was comprised of backyard gardeners and small farmers, most of who were interested in keeping bees for pollination of trees and vegetables. Many people on Hawai‘i Island have reported noticing a decline in macadamia nut and fruit tree production as a result of the loss of wild beehives. Wild hives have begun to decline as a result of the varroa mite bee parasite and other bee pathogens.

Jenny told the class that Honeybees were first brought to Hawaii in 1857 by the Bishop family. After a number of failed attempts, honeybees finally arrived by ship and were first cultivated in Nu‘uanu valley on Oahu.

Richard explains about how to approach the bees in the hive.

With plenty of flowering trees and no varroa mite, beekeepers in Hawaii have enjoyed a bee paradise for many years before the arrival of the devastating mite a few years ago. A Big Island Beekeepers Association survey found that Hawaii Island Beekeepers have recently lost about 50% of their managed hives.

With the decline in agricultural production and more awareness about the plight of the bees, public interest in bees has skyrocketed. Demand for the class was very high and we have a long waiting list for future classes.

“Bees find their beekeepers,” says Jenny.

The students had many different reasons for wanting to take the Beginning Organic Beekeeping class. Aja, a student at the University of Seattle wants to gain more farming skills and perpetuate the movement. Jim got turned on to beekeeping by a friend in New York. Now, living on 16 acres in Hawaii Island he wants to integrate bees into his farm system. Ian has been interested in bees since he did a project in the 7th grade and is glad to finally be pursing an interest so long ago started.

Everyone in their new hats and veils.

Caroline said, “Bees… I am fascinated by bees. I am a vegetarian, so fruits and vegetables are important. Bees are a powerful medicine. I recently got to help catch a swarm and that was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. ”

Christine, a nursery manager said, “Gardening and bees just go together.”

Thanks to a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program everyone received beginning beekeeping equipment. Here the class leans to put on their hats and veils.

wsare_logo_lowThis project was funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

Cave Paintings, Community and Pheromones
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Posted on July 14, 2011 in Beekeeping Classes | Short Link

Richard’s long experience as an organic beekeeper and creator of a socially/environmentally responsible honey business, combined with Jenny’s intuitive nature and obvious passion for nurturing bees, made for a fascinating and informative first class.

The relationship between bees and humans is a long one, as a 6,000 year old cave painting in Spain attests. A thin ochre figure reaches for a round hive in a tree as bees swarm. The image made me smile… golden sweetness upon the tongue is worth the pain of getting stung!

I was amazed by the utter complexity of life within the beehive. The female workers, comprising 90% of the population, live from 3 to 6 weeks and display a very orderly division of labor. As soon as a worker bee emerges from her cell as a newly hatched adult, she begins cleaning cells of debris, graduates a few days later to covering larval cells with beeswax, and ends her nursery duties with brood tending. Having reached a certain level of maturity, she now attends the queen, then shortly changes jobs again to receive incoming nectar from her sisters. Subsequent chores include packing pollen, comb building, ventilating the hive to maintain an ideal temperature of 97 degrees, and guarding against invaders. Only after fulfilling her share of each of these tasks does she leave the hive for her first day of foraging! I can hear the children already: “You mean she can’t just choose her favorite job and do it forever?!” What a lesson in community sharing and responsibility!

Equally fascinating is the use of pheromones, or chemical scents the bees produce to communicate with one another. I was surprised to learn that a bee will leave a pheromone on a flower it has just visited to alert others that the nectar is all used up. As if by magic, the pheromone dissipates when the flower’s nectar supply returns! Indeed, there is much magic surrounding bees, which Richard and Jenny openly acknowledge – a magic that continually adds to the awe and joy of beekeeping.

Written by Monika Hennig

wsare_logo_lowThis project was funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

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The Magic of White Honey & Lilikoi
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VIHC owner, Richard Spiegel

VIHC owner, Richard Spiegel

Back in the 1980′s, when VIHC was just becoming more than a hobby, Richard went into Dean & Deluca (one of the first and finest specialty food stores in the U.S.) with a jar of White Honey in his vest pocket. It was just before Christmas, and Richard was told he would not be able to meet with the store buyer, as the holiday season was very busy. But as fate would have it, Joel Dean, the owner, walked out at that very moment and asked if he could help …

Richard showed him the jar of honey and gave him a taste. “Send me two cases,” Mr. Dean said. That endorsement later warmed many a cold call, as Richard introduced the honey to other potential accounts. Once tasted, the honey sold itself.

At that time, VIHC had only one product: white kiawe honey. Many people advised Richard on how to run a small business, saying it would never

Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey

Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey

succeed with just one product. But, being an unconventional, hippy businessman, Richard ignored this advice; VIHC continued to offer only the White Honey and the business continued to grow. Eventually, however, he did decide to try creating another product. One of those he tried was honey with passionfruit, or lilikoi (“li-li-koi”) in Hawaiian.

Lilikoi vine, with flowers and fruit

Lilikoi vine, with flowers and fruit

Though not native to Hawaii, lilikoi has become a local favorite, especially when added to other foods. Eaten fresh off the vine, it is high in vitamin C, potassium, beta carotene and fiber. Baked, squeezed, frozen or preserved, it is turned into a variety of tasty confections (lilikoi butter, jelly, pie, cookies) and refreshing drinks (smoothies, iced tea). We obtain our lilikoi wild crafted from a small, local, family-owned company. The lilikoi puree is then mixed, by hand, into our honey in small batches.

Since we began offering Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey with Hawaiian Lilikoi, it has become a customer favorite. Like other winning flavor combinations (tomato and basil, apple and cinnamon, papaya and lime), the blend of White Honey and lilikoi somehow amounts to more than the sum of its parts: the tart, tropical tang of lilikoi complements the rich, creamy sweetness of White Honey, yielding a sensuous, magically delicious result!

If you’ve already tried our White Honey with Hawaiian Lilikoi, let us know what you think on the product review link on our product page. If you

White Honey with Hawaiian Lilikoi

White Honey with Hawaiian Lilikoi

Be creative: if you discover your favorite way of using our lilikoi honey, please share it with us on Facebook or by email. Better yet, invite some friends to share your favorite lilikoi honey treat!

White Lilikoi Eco Box

White Lilikoi Eco Box

In honor of sweet fathers everywhere, for the next week only (ending on 6/20/11) we’re offering special flat rate shipping of only $15 for any order of$100 or more. May we suggest our White Lilikoi Eco Six Pack?

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The Magic of Place: Terroir White Honey
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Posted on May 17, 2011 in Monthly Newsletters, Our Honey, Terroir | Short Link
Sunset in the Puako forest, where our White Honey is gathered

Sunset in the Puako forest, where our White Honey is gathered

People often ask what makes our honey so special? Our short answer is that we use meticulous harvesting and handling techniques; however, there is an essential element that provides the platform for all our beekeeping activities.  This element is where the honey comes from, and can be described as a sense of place, or ‘terroir.’ This special place imparts an extraordinary quality to our honey, which is gathered exclusively from this one unique dryland forest.

Terroir comes from the Latin word for land, terre. It was originally a French term used to denote the special characteristics that geography, geology and climate give to the unique foods cultivated in different regions. Examples include Champagne (from Champagne, France), Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Italy), Columbian coffee, Camambert cheese (from Normandy), and Vidalia onions (from Vidalia, Georgia). Humans also affect the quality of these special foods – for instance, through their decisions about which crop varieties to cultivate and animal breeds to raise, and which specific farming practices to use.

Our Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey is a prime example of a terroir food.  All our White (kiawe) honeys come from a single grove of kiawe trees on the Big Island of Hawaii. Known as the Puako forest, this rare environment was created by converging natural and human forces.

The Puako forest is located on the island’s leeward coast, meaning that it is sheltered from the prevailing northeasterly trade winds by the nearly 14,000 foot Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes.

Owner/Beekeeper, Richard Spiegel, walking through the Puako apiary

Owner/Beekeeper, Richard Spiegel, walking through the Puako apiary

So, the Puako forest does not receive much rain – only about 7 inches per year. The climate is warm and dry, but a perennial source of brackish (salty) groundwater provides subterranean irrigation year-round. While most plants cannot tolerate Puako’s saline, coastal soils, the kiawe tree (Prosopis pallida) — a salt-tolerant legume native to coastal South America — is perfectly adapted.  Kiawe was brought to Hawaii from Peru by humans in the late 1820s. It was later spread by cattle, who ate the nutrient-rich bean pods, literally planting the Puako forest that exists today.

Luckily for us (and our honey-loving friends), the forest in Puako happens to be a classic oasis — isolated in the middle of a ‘lava desert’, created by Mauna Loa’s 1859 eruption. Since no other flowers bloom in such high abundance in this area, we are able to collect a monofloral honey, made solely from kiawe nectar.  This also allows for the production of organic honey, as Puako’s more than 1000 forested acres are free from synthetics, pesticides and other toxins.

View of Puako

View of Puako

These unique ecological features (isolation, abundant sunshine, dry weather,and constant irrigation) and human influence (the introduction of kiawe), combined with the bees’ tireless work, create the essence of our Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey. Our intention, as beekeepers, is to change it as little as possible, bringing you as close to a taste of this magical Hawaiian forest as possible! That is why we are committed to a raw, unfiltered, all-natural product.

This May, Puako is bursting with Spring flowers. Thankfully, our bees’ health also appears to be improving, and right now the kiawe honey flow is strong. Since all of our honeys are seasonal and limited in supply, you will be glad to know that our White Honey, is available right now through our online store.

We know that shipping has gotten expensive with rising oil prices, and many of our customers have found that ordering larger shipments, especially our eco six pack, helps them save money.

Blooming Kiawe flowers

Blooming Kiawe flowers

Ordering larger quantities at a time also helps conserve our precious natural resources, like fossil fuels.

Taking care of the environment is a huge part of who we are and what we do here at Volcano Island Honey Co. We are grateful and honored to share the rare and wonderful environment of the Puako forest with customers like you, who will appreciate the terroir that makes our exceptional honey possible.

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A Taste of Macadamia Magic
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Posted on April 18, 2011 in Monthly Newsletters, Our Honey | Short Link
Macadamia nuts, shelled and whole

Macadamia nuts, shelled and whole

Some of you have been waiting for our Macadamia Honey for a long time. After two years of not producing Macadamia Honey, we are happy to offer it once again. 

Three weeks ago, we harvested an unusual blend of macadamia and kiawe honey – a combination that, in Hawaii marks the end of winter and a sudden turn to spring. 

Because the kiawe flower bloom started a month early, we moved the bees from an organic macadamia nut orchard into the Puako kiawe forest before we could extract the Macadamia Honey. And, before we were able to get the macadmia honey off the hives, the bees had already collected some kiawe honey; the result: a natural but unique blend we have never had before, capturing some of the bees’ winter surplus of Macadamia Honey and a hint of their first spring harvest of White Kiawe Honey – all in one jar!

Macadamia flowers and nuts

Macadamia flowers and nuts

This naturally blended Macadamia Kiawe Honey is truly a happy marriage of two honeys that has some very unique qualities; in fact, we’ve never tasted anything quite like it. Its full, fruity Macadamia Honey flavor (think warm caramel with a tropical tang) is quite different from the rich, round, neutral sweetness of our White Honey. But it isn’t like pure Macadamia Honey either, which has a deep bronze color and viscous liquid consistency. This honey does have a smooth buttery texture like our white kiawe honey, but it’s not as firm, and with an opaque amber sheen. What creates this unique texture?

 In our March newsletter, we talked about our fancy Silk Honey and how its exquisitely smooth texture is the result of microscopic crystals.    As we learned last month, texture is related to how the nectar crystallizes and crystallization is a result of the specific combination of different sugars present in the nectar.  This month, let’s look a little deeper into the relationship between nectars, sugars, crystals and honey texture. Many people know that honey is largely composed of sugar with small amounts of minerals and vitamins.  But not many people know that there are different kinds of sugar in honey – dextrose and levulose are the main sugars, along with sucrose, maltose, and at least 20 other more complex sugars.  Honeys from different flower (nectar) sources have different sugar compositions; and that’s the main reason why different honeys have different textures.

Crystallization in honey is a complex process, involving many other factors still not fully understood. From our understanding, it is the proportions of sugars that affect crystallization timing. Essentially, honey with a higher proportion of levulose to dextrose crystallizes more slowly, while honey with a lower proportion of levulose to dextrose crystallizes more quickly.  Most honeys have a high levulose to dextrose ratio and crystallize slowly over time, causing large gritty crystals to grow; honeys that crystallize quickly, on the other hand, grow tiny crystals.  Thus, the faster honey crystallizes the smaller its crystals, and the smaller the crystals the smoother the honey. Our White (kiawe) Honey crystallizes very quickly, within a couple days of bottling, due to its relatively high dextrose to levulose sugar ratio; this fast crystallization leads to its naturally thick, smooth, creamy texture. Macadamia flower nectar has less dextrose in relation to levulose, making it crystallize more slowly and typically remain liquid for about a year.

macnut_thThis year’s natural blend of a hint of kiawe honey in the Macadamia Honey is a unique mix of nectars and combination of sugars, resulting in a smooth, crystallized but soft-textured honey. Order a jar right now through our online store and get a taste of the macadamia magic, 100% organic and raw, while it lasts.

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Smooth as Silk
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Posted on March 14, 2011 in Monthly Newsletters | Short Link

silk_thOur Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey is known for its creamy texture and subtle flavor-but our Silk Honey is the crème de la crème-literally, it is our creamiest, smoothest, silkiest texture honey. We first introduced Silk Honey in 2007 and it immediately became a NASFT (North American Specialty Food Trade Association) Sofi Silver finalist for best new product!


spoon_1Silk Honey is from the same nectar (kiawe) as our White Honey, but we refined how we finish the honey to create an even smoother texture. Many people ask why our honey is white and looks whipped (it is not!). The creamy white texture is a result of the fine crystallization of the honey (which is characteristic of kiawe honey) when harvesting is timed correctly. If you do a careful taste test (eyes closed!), you can detect the very fine crystals in our White Honey. If you repeat the test with our Silk Honey, you will not be able to feel any of the tiny crystals, which is why the texture is so smooth and silky. It takes a lot of meticulous attention to detail to make a natural and unheated honey as smooth as our Silk Honey, but we thrive on challenge.


Crystals are ubiquitous in our lives: diamonds, snow, sugar, salt, ice, etc; and they are the basis for much of the high tech world in which we live. A computer chip is made of crystals (silicon crystals); our honey is composed of crystals (sugar crystals). Here at our honey farm, the low tech world of nature and our meticulous beekeepers combine to offer a live, natural food composed of tiny, edible crystals. While silicon crystals deliver you high tech information, the fine crystals in our honey deliver you ‘A Taste of the Magic of Hawaii’ – delicious, delicate honey crystals imbued with the essence of the Hawaii sun and flowers.


Many of you asked about shelf life of our honey. Our Silk Honey has a longer shelf life than our other honeys. We recommend that it be used within six months to preserve its gourmet quality and texture. If stored in the refrigerator, its original characteristics will be preserved up to 18 months.


Because we do not heat our honey, the naturally occurring enzymes remain alive and active. Over time (4-6 months) the action of the enzymes will change the honey’s texture, flavor and color. That’s why it is important to store our honey in a cool dry environment to slow down the enzymatic activities. Refrigeration or freezing is a good way to store our honey for an extended period of time. If eaten within 4-6 months, depending on the texture that you prefer, there is no need to refrigerate. While honey does change over time, it is edible indefinitely. Two thousand year old edible honey was found in the pyramids in Egypt.


Our Silk Honey is very popular among honey fans and connoisseurs. We make Silk Honey in small batches and we only have about a 6 week supply left. To experience our smooth as silk honey, you can order your honey now!

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Lilikoi for Lovers
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Posted on February 8, 2011 in Our Honey, Ways to Use Honey | Short Link

lilikoiLilikoi is passion fruit in Hawaiian.


lilikoiLilikoi is a fragrant fruit with a lovely tangy and sweet taste. Many people think that the beeLilikoi Honeys feed on the nectar of the lilikoi flower and that is how we get lilikoi honey. But in fact, we mix pure wild-crafted puree of the lilikoi fruit into our Organic White Honey to make our Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey with Hawaiian Lilikoi. The sweetness of our white honey mixes perfectly with the tartness of the lilikoi. (Kind of like some couples, eh?)


Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) is native to South America, and grows prolifically in Hawaii. It is a rich source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A, iron, and potassium. We source our lilikoi puree locally from a small environmentally aware company.


Ways to Use Lilikoi Honey

If you’re like us – we like eating all of our honeys straight out of the jar! It is also a great spread on pancakes, waffles or whole wheat toast. You can also combine the lilikoi honey with butter or cream cheese as a spread. Sunee Campbell, our Production Manager uses our lilikoi honey to make an easy and delicious cake frosting. Its great on carrot cake and chocolate cake! Just whip one 8 oz block of cream cheese with about 3 Tablespoons of lilikoi honey.


Try our Silk and Passion Gift Box or a jar of our Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey with Hawaiian Lillikoi.

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February Newsletter-The Love Edition!
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Posted on February 8, 2011 in Monthly Newsletters | Short Link

Check out our February Newsletter!


febnews

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How are the Bees? An Update on Colony Collapse and Bee Health.
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Posted on December 6, 2010 in Beekeeping | Short Link
Diagnostic testing: we had to sacrifice some of our bees in the pursuit of a scientific understanding for the causes of this disease. The sampling team (from left to right): UH researcher, Didi; Volcano Island beekeeper, Daniel; UH graduate student; Volcano Island beekeeper, Arthur; UH extension agent Scott; Dr. Steven Martin in the red Haz-Mat suit; Volcano Island owner-beekeeper, Richard Spiegel.

Diagnostic testing: we had to sacrifice some of our bees in the pursuit of a scientific understanding for the causes of this disease. The sampling team (from left to right): UH researcher, Didi; Volcano Island beekeeper, Daniel; UH graduate student; Volcano Island beekeeper, Arthur; UH extension agent Scott; Dr. Steven Martin in the red Haz-Mat suit; Volcano Island owner-beekeeper, Richard Spiegel.

Last week at Volcano Island Honey Co., Dr. Steven Martin of the University of Sheffield (UK) visited our farm for the second time to collect samples for his research on insect viruses. We took advantage of Dr. Martin’s visit to learn more about the latest in bee health worldwide – a subject that affects us all, since many of our favorite food crops rely on bees for pollination (including avocados, lemons, apples and broccoli). As one of the world’s foremost scientists studying honeybee viruses, we thought you might be interested in hearing what Dr. Martin had to say – especially as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has recently received much media attention.

Selecting: Volcano Island beekeeper, Arthur, looks for a good sample of bees on one of our frames, with UH extension agent (left) and Dr. Martin (right).

Selecting: Volcano Island beekeeper, Arthur, looks for a good sample of bees on one of our frames, with UH extension agent (left) and Dr. Martin (right).

CCD is characterized by a sudden departure of worker bees from a hive still rich in resources and brood. The title of a recent New York Times article, “Scientists and soldiers solve a bee mystery,” was somewhat misleading, as the CCD quandary remains largely unresolved. One recently published study and the basis for the NYT article suggested that CCD might be linked to the combined presence of fungus and virus in the hive. Yet, many scholars are exploring other possible culprits – such as yet unknown viruses, GMOs, and pesticides applied to crops consumed by bees. Of particular concern to some beekeepers, neonicotinoids, or nicotine-based insecticides, are known to be harmful to bees and have already been partially banned in France.

Collecting: UH researchers scoop a small sample of bees into a plastic bag to test the viruses present in the hive.

Collecting: UH researchers scoop a small sample of bees into a plastic bag to test the viruses present in the hive.

Luckily for us, CCD has not reached Hawaii. Nonetheless, other bee diseases are threatening our hives, as well as many others around the state. These include the Varroa mite, responsible for spreading the viruses Dr. Martin studies. According to Dr. Martin the mites themselves are less harmful than the viruses they carry. The viruses enter the brood and adult bees at the mites puncture wound/feeding site on the bees body; these viruses proliferate exponentially and reduce the bees’ lifespan by about two thirds. On Dr. Martin’s first visit to Volcano Island Honey a year ago Varroa had not yet infested our colonies; on this return visit he intends to compare the virus levels present in newly varroa-infested colonies with the levels he found in those same colonies before they were infested with varroa.

Over the past few decades, Varroa has managed to spread across the world at an alarming rate: the first mite was found on the east coast of the U.S. in 1979 and reached Hawai’i in 2007 (the Big Island in 2008). As we understood from Dr. Martin, this epidemic is related to humans moving infested mite-resistant Asian bees into regions where non-resistant European honeybees lived, allowing the mite to crossover and infest the European honeybees. In this way, human meddling with nature has probably contributed to an environmental problem, threatening not only bees, but beekeepers and honey lovers – as well as some 30% of our entire food supply.

We are now working with Dr. Martin and researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa to fight the Varroa mite so that our bees can continue to live long healthy lives and create the very special honey we love sharing with you. Dr. Martin’s fascinating visit also renewed our commitment to holistic, organic honey production – as pure and natural as possible, for your health and that of our planet.

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16th Annual Holiday Newsletter
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Posted on November 15, 2010 in Monthly Newsletters | Short Link

RichardwFrameweb_000In considering the topics for this year’s newsletter, a staff member told me that our newsletter was lacking our typical sparkle, and that we report basically the same story every year. “People came, people left. Honey harvest is up, honey harvest is down. Bees are in trouble due to the latest threat.” So this year I thought I would leave those stories to our Blog and Facebook and share with you the deeper successes of this little business.


As an eclectic spiritual practitioner I know that the wheel of the world keeps turning – good/bad, down/up, rich/poor, sickness/health – and that it is part of my task to transcend this whirl – to be a part of it all, but not to become overly attached to it – to recognize that my essential being is only temporarily visiting in this body.


It is essential that I incorporate my up/down/spin-around busyness as part of my spiritual practice. Since running a small business is what Candice and I spend most of our time doing, it is important to recognize it as part of our spiritual practice. And what is our spiritual practice? To be awake as much as possible and to do good and at the very least to do no harm to the environment and living beings.


So then, what is this business about? Is it about money? Well, money is part of it. Money enables us to keep going as a business and share this exceptional honey with you. Without a profitable business we wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect in meaningful ways with all of the people who flow through Volcano Island Honey as staff, as customers, as chefs, as friends – all helping make it such a special place to be. And the business is also a vehicle for expressing our intention to be an example of the possibility of working and living in harmony with the earth, with people and with spirit and at the same time be financially successful.


The other day I was on the phone with the CEO of a large company that sells our honey. He was sharing with me the many life changes he has been experiencing since he had heart trouble earlier this year changes that made obvious the impermanence of all material things. Then he said, “You know five mornings a week I get up and have a dab of your honey on my toast and in my tea. Your honey connects me to the peaceful tranquility of Hawaii.” He reminded me of the subtle reach of our humble work – to know that a busy and important executive like this is touched each day by our intention and our desire to share a Taste of the Magic of Hawaii.


For 25 years we have been getting letters from customers telling us that our honey is a special part of their day. The fact that we can facilitate the transmission of our deep intention embodied in this delightful honey, and that so many appreciate it so much, is truly satisfying. That is what this business is really about.


May this Holiday Season bring peace in your heart, in your family and in the world.


Aloha,


Richard


Richard Spiegel and Ohana (Family) ~ Beekeepers & Gatherers of Fine Honey


Click here for this year’s Holiday Specials.

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