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Once Underground, Local Beekeepers Hold a Honey Festival

In the 18 months since city health officials reversed a ban, New York City beekeeping has gone from an illegal activity to one so robust and celebrated that it's getting its own festival. The First Annual New York City Honey Festival will be held this Saturday at the Rockaway Boardwalk in Queens.

Chase Emmons is with the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, which is organizing the event. 

"My vision for it is what Burning Man, Year One, was," he said, referring to the now-famous Burning Man desert festival celebrating the arts, self-expression, and self-reliance. (It turned 25 this year). 

The Honey Festival is "unstructured, kind of an idea. There are a lot of people coming." 

Emmons paused. 

"I'm not sure what will happen."

Here's what he knows for sure: the Festival will offer honey from rooftop and backyard apiaries across the city. The foodies from Brooklyn Kitchen in Greenpoint will host cooking demonstrations and Six Point Brewery will teach people how to brew honey beer and offer pints of its "Little Buzz," described as a "rare seasonal beer brewed in Red Hook with raw clover honey, in the style of a pale ale."

There will be food to go along with the beer, by the way. For $20, you get a "soul food feast" of friend chicken with spicy honey butter sauce, collard greens, honey baked beans, and honey corn bread.

If you're inspired by all the golden nectar around you, you can learn basic beekeeping tips. There's also a workshop on how to set up a small business, so you can sell your honey.

A talk that has caught my eye is one that will be given by Pat Bono, a honey activist from the Finger Lakes who will discuss proposed legislation before Albany lawamakers to revise the definition of "honey."

"There are lots of issues these days regarding counterfeit honey from China," said Emmons. "Did you know the United States imports 70 percent of its honey? And 80 percent of that amount is from China. And what they've found is that China, in its rendering process, cuts the honey with sugar, or corn syrup."

I didn't think anyone could duplicate the amazing complexities of honey, but I didn't consider that someone could tamper with it.

Media outlets have already beaten me to the term "honey laundering."

So, lots of info, lots of honey, and lots of inspiration to start your own hive, so you can come back for the SECOND annual festival with your own, non-laundered, delicious haul.  I hope to see you there!