Wednesday, December 7, 2016

St Jane parishioner making tons of honey at St Joseph Abbey

Sweet! St. Joseph Abbey raises the bar on honey production

Monasticism and beekeeping make for a union that dates from medieval times, when beeswax was used to make candles and honey was a sweet treat for monks long before Baskin-Robbins came along. Now at St. Joseph Abbey Seminary College near Covington, beekeeper Jeff Horchoff is going high tech with his bees' coveted commodity: St. Joseph Ab Bee pure honey.
On Wednesday (Dec. 7), the abbey will bless and dedicate the St. Ambrose Honey House, a 900-square foot processing and packaging center intended to let Horchoff step up his production efforts. The honey house, located behind the iconic abbey church on the sprawling campus at St. Benedict, houses modern machinery that will make Horchoff's one-person operation less labor intensive and produce more Ab Bee honey to be sold at the abbey's gift shop.
Abbott Justin Brown said the beekeeping and honey producing effort is one of several cottage industries at the abbey. Others include making caskets and baking bread.

"It's nice to be able to have it (honey production) done in such a professional manner," Brown said. "We have raised the bar, and it hasn't cost the abbey a penny."

St. Joseph Abbey 'Abbee' honey to hit shelves in July
As many as 300 bottles of honey to go on sale at abbey.

The honey is a popular, natural product that contains no additives. Profits from its sales help the abbey meet financial needs.
Horchoff, a retired postal worker, has been managing hives and extracting honey at the abbey for several years. Before the devastating spring floods hit, he had 18 active hives and was shifting the honey operation into high gear.
At the time, he was producing the honey in cramped quarters in the abbey's woodworking shop. With the need for more space and better processing equipment becoming dire, the abbey began building the new workshop earlier this year.
The building flooded in March while under construction, one of dozens of structures on the campus to take on water. The abbey overall suffered some $30 million in damage, officials said at the time.
The flood also destroyed 16 of the 18 active bee hives, forcing Horchoff to go looking for bees. While rebuilding the hives, construction was wrapping up on the bee house.
The workshop cost about $70,000 to build and equip, all raised through donations. It contains six major pieces of equipment that let Horchoff extract honey from the hives, process it and put it in 16- ounce bottles that are sold in the gift shop for $8. All proceeds go to the abbey.
The honey does not stay on the shelves long. A shipment was put out shortly after the gift shop reopened after the flood, but those bottles are now gone. Horchoff said he hopes to have as many as 500 bottles on the shelves by June, after the spring honey harvest.
The new center could let Horchoff drastically increase production and create a steady flow of honey once his hives develop. He was well on his way to a major honey output, but the flood was a major setback.
"My goal is to have honey in the gift shop year around," he said. "But for me, this is more than just honey. It's about the bees. Bees belong on a monastery."

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