New state law helps beekeepers, gives consumers more confidence in locally produced honey

INOLA, Okla. - Ken Davis has a lot of patience. That is how he has made it in the honey business, running the Little Creek Bee Ranch since 2005.

"Bees will do, what bees want to do," Davis said. "You have to have the mentality of what will the bees give me today."

Davis goes from box to box, checking on colony after colony, just waiting to find that liquid gold. But when he finds it, "It's like a kid at Christmas time. It's like a kid at Christmas time," Davis said.

The honey business is good for Davis. He might not be as rich as the honey he makes, but he can barely keep it in stock due to a loyal following.

"We will sell out of everything before the end of August," Davis said. "Use to be that I could last until November. People don't wait for me to get to farmer's market. They will come to the house."

Still, the honey producing business has had a lot of red tap in the past, with inspections and certifications, making things challenging for farmers like Davis.

He is running a small business here, bottling 40 to 70 gallons a year and staying pure by not using any chemicals or pesticides.

But now the honey game in Oklahoma is changing. The Oklahoma Honey Sales Act is now in effect and it says beekeepers producing less than 500 gallons of honey per year, or about 4,000 16 ounce jars, are exempt from inspection by the state health department.

That cuts thousands of dollars from Ken's expense s in licensing and certification fees, letting him and other bee farmers operate more freely, but while still running a credible business.

The law requires farmer s to label their honey with their name, phone number, address and a statement saying it was not inspected by the Oklahoma Department of Health.

Which means Ken can keep on running his farm, with fewer expenses, and future generations of beekeepers will have an easier time getting into the business.

"The law allowed a lot of credibility and integrity, that a young, new beekeeper can sell some honey to their friends or whatever," Davis said. "Without any worry about any retribution, it needs to be a pure clean product. That is what we are after, making sure we make a pure clean product."

The Oklahoma Honey Sales Act passed the state house and senate unanimously.

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