Like many beekeepers, ours is a multi-generational family business. The apiaries have grown from just a few hives in the early ‘70s, to 2,500 hives and 125,000,000 bees today.
And this is how it started:
It was a long way from Hahira, Georgia, and his bees wouldn't be able to go with him. But Jim believed it was a tremendous opportunity, and he was intent on making the trip. It was 1972.
Jim Powers, my father-in-law, stubborn, proud, cantankerous, and one of the largest producers of honey in the United States, decided the Island of Hawaii was perfect for making honey and starting his eighth and last honey operation.
Of course, on this and on all matters concerning honey and bees, he was right. The island was immense—almost 4,000 square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, larger than Connecticut. With only 65,000 inhabitants, it was pristine. And flowers everywhere, blooming year-round.
Jim's step-son and my husband, Garnett Puett, took over the Hawaiian operation in 1982 and became the fourth generation of his family to make beekeeping his livelihood. The experience gleaned from prior generations emphasized the important relationship between the environment and the bees’ well being. While maintaining our artisanal standards, the business and hives continued to flourish and grow, resulting in hundreds-of-thousands of pounds of uniquely Hawaiian honey—all of which was exported container after container to mainland honey packers.
Unfortunately, living in paradise did not protect us from global developments that were transforming the honey industry for the worse: cheap adulterated Chinese honey; global warming; and the spread of parasitic mites, all of which combined to crush honey prices and threaten our bees. We had to rethink the business model. Beginning in 2004, I started selling our honey at local farmers markets under our own label: Big Island Bees.
Because we didn't have the sophisticated packing equipment of mainland packers, I simply hand poured honey from the hives into glass jars. I didn't heat it. I didn't filter it. And it tasted wonderful!
The locals loved having locally sourced honey but it was the flavor that really made them swoon—rich, velvety, dark-as-chocolate Macadamia; light, floral, delicate Lehua; and spicy, amber Christmas Berry (Wilelaiki)—each honey variety so different from one another, attributable to the type of flower from which each honey is made. This intense flavor profile is what makes our honey so unique.
We also think we are unique among beekeeping families for our appreciation and display of the bees’ artistic majesty. This artistry is most pronounced in Garnett’s apisculptures, a close collaboration between Garnett and the bees in creating beeswax sculptures which have been exhibited around the world, including New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
Our packaging is reflective of the beauty of the bees’ hives and the local environment in which they thrive.
We hope you will have a chance to visit us when you travel to Hawaii so we can show you our operations and let you sample our many honey products.
But if you have no immediate plans for a Hawaiian vacation, we hope you will consider ordering directly from us on our website. We promise it is only honey produced by our family's bees here on the Big Island, and that you will find the flavors to be unique and wonderful.
In the Press
Big Island Bees, our honey and our farm have been featured in many publications on and off-line. We've selected some of our favorites to share with you here.View us In the Press