You’re driving down a well-traveled country road in Duson. On the side of the road, you spy a diminutive hand-lettered sign: Honey For Sale. Behind the sign, you find a driveway pass an assortment of buildings, from a tiny home to an industrial-looking metal behemoth. You park next to the rustic shack with a wide-open door and another Honey For Sale sign. This is Bayou Country Honey, Jesse and Marcia Gifford’s sweet little slice of heaven. What makes it so sweet? Well, it could be the 4500 bees the Giffords keep. Or it could be that their customers get to buy honey, on the honor system, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. “We’ve even had folks show up on Christmas Day,” says Marcia Gifford.
A Sweet Setup
Inside the homey little shack stands a huge metal tank. Around the room, there are pint jars, quart jars and gallon jars, and lids. Oh, and little honey bear jars. On the front of the tank, a price list, and below it, a wooden box. Customers pick out their jar, pull the rod of the spigot to release the honey, then place their money in the wooden box. “It’s a great system,” says Marcia. “In the ten years we’ve been here, the overwhelming percentage of our customers have been good people.” Of course, the Giffords are vigilant. There are cameras on site, and anyone who seeks to rip them off by non-payment or writing a bad check, gets a spot on their Wall of Shame. “It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve had a few bad eggs,” says Marcia.
Hive to Tank - No Waiting
The Giffords extract the honey from their hives regularly, and it goes directly into the tank. The tank has a hot water jacket, so the honey remains at a flowable temperature at all times. “The tank holds more than seven-and-a-half 55-gallon drums,” says Marcia. “That’s a lot, considering that each bee makes less than a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime – Google it!” This reporter did and found that worker bees make about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in their one-month life span. “We do nothing to the honey, we just extract it and into the tank it goes. It’s pure raw honey,” says Marcia. “We will never claim that it is organic, because each bee can fly three to five miles from the location of the hive. We have no way to verify which fields the bees collect from.”
The Giffords just want people to use honey, and they’ve been very pleased with their success at Bayou Country Honey. “We’ve set our prices lower than the honey you’ll find in other markets because of the do-it-yourself aspect, and people have really responded to that,” says Marcia. “Once, when Jesse had to empty the tank, he drew out several jars to sell. Our customers wouldn’t buy it, they wanted to draw their own honey. They said, ‘We like to pour our own – we’ll come back when we can.’”
Believe it or not, the Giffords’ bees are quite the travelers. From January to about mid-March, the Giffords pack up their hives and send them to California, where almond farmers utilize them to help pollinate the almond trees. The bees may also make a trip back to the Giffords’ home state of North Dakota during the summer, if there is no drought. The honey the bees produce during their California stay is not sold, because, according to Marcia, “it’s very woody, so we just leave it for the bees to consume.” The honey is produced in Louisiana and comes mostly from Chinese tallow trees, or as we commonly call them, chicken trees. “Some white clover gets in there as well, when it’s blooming,” adds Marcia.
More than Just Honey
Bayou Country Honey also sells beeswax, comb honey and bee pollen from their farm. “Bee pollen is so good for so many things – mainly, because the pollen contains extracts of local plants; it can help tremendously with allergies,” says Marcia. “The secret is to start gradually and build it up in your system. Of course, should you have concerns about using bee pollen, always consult your doctor first.”