Zach & Zoe Sweet Bee Farm owners Kam and Summer Johnson started keeping bees thanks to their young son, Zach. As he struggled with allergies, Summer began to read up on the benefits of raw honey and exposing oneself to natural allergens. And after feeding their son a steady stream of raw honey, they decided to start making their own.
“A lot of commercial honey is corn syrup, it doesn’t have the natural vitamins and minerals that natural raw honey has,” says Kam. “So we try not to be honey snobs, but we do want people to understand there’s a difference, and what we consume does matter.”
The family learned about beekeeping and honey harvesting from their mentor and friend, “Uncle” Larry Saums, owner of Bee Flower & Sun Honey. They bought their bees from him five years ago, and continue to share bees, tips, and learnings with each other. “The biggest thing I learned from Larry is, you can’t rush it. My advice to any new beekeeper is find an experienced beekeeper and just spend time with them. Beekeepers is a very cool community.”
Today, Kam and Summer have three hives and roughly 2 million bees, and they pride themselves on doing everything themselves: from keeping the bees, to harvesting, filtering and extracting the honey, to bottling and selling. Once the honey is filtered, jarred, and packaged, the Johnsons enjoy hand-delivering their product to clients they have personal relationships with around New York City, such as Gabriel Stulman of Fairfax, and to customers at their shop in Chelsea Market.
“One of the cool things about naming it Zach & Zoe, is that we knew we couldn’t give up,” says Kam. “We knew that if it had [our kids’] names on it, we’d be forced to go that extra mile starting up. And so it’s been a hard road, but it is so rewarding.”