Apr 1, 2019
Rebecca Shim and her husband Ray have been getting a lot more bee stings since they moved to the Catskills.
Rebecca Shim and her husband Ray have been getting a lot more bee stings since they moved to the Catskills. The couple has been running Phoenicia Honey Co. for five years at their Amira’s Farm in Mount Tremper in Ulster County, where Shim says, “bees and plants are grown organically with love.” Flowers, shrubs and herbs grown on the farm for pollinating are also used as ingredients for Phoenicia Honey’s specialty line of infused honey food products.
With a background as a formally trained chef, and having worked with many notable chefs and owning and operating two Zagat rated restaurants in Brooklyn, Shim said she left Brooklyn to journey upstate to learn about farming. “[I wanted] to see where the food came from,” she said. “I love growing food and wanted to keep bees as a way to help with the problems bees are facing.” Shim added that she feels the couple both still have much to learn.
Everything made by Phoenicia Honey is crafted in small batches, filled with locally sourced ingredients, whenever possible,with ingredients grown on the farm. The unique blends and flavor profiles found in their infused honey sets Phoenicia Honey apart from others in the category: Chai Spice Infused Raw Local Honey, Chocolate & Bergamot Honey, Cinnamon & Star Anise Infused Wildflower Honey, Ginger & Orange Infused Honey, Signature Lavender Honey and a “First Aid” limited edition. The formulation of the popular First Aid raw local honey is a unique infusion of ginger, cinnamon, lemon balm, elder berries, echinacea, mullien leaf, comfrey root, burdock root, garlic, lemon peel and turmeric. Drawing upon Shim’s culinary experience, “the honey infusions are created like a ‘good meal.’ Thoughts on sweet, spicy, acid, balance all come into play,” she explained.
Phoenicia Honey products may currently be found in specialty food markets from Brooklyn up through the Hudson Valley and Catskills, a pop-up shop in Phoenicia, seasonal and holiday markets, on Etsy, and on the company’s website, www.phoeniciahoney.co. Phoenicia Honey will also custom tailor infusion flavoring and packaging for special events such as weddings or corporate gifts. In order to scale production, Phoenicia Honey recently moved into commercial kitchen space at the Cornell Creative Business Center in Kingston.
Going into their fifth season, Phoenicia Honey currently has only two hives, after starting with six. Shim said the couple hoped to expand, however winters have been difficult. The long game plan is to expand their apiary, once the business is sustainable, and move production back to the farm.
Bees are more than a crop to Shim and her husband; she sees meaning in their behaviors. “Bees are surprisingly gentle, although I have been stung a few times. I help out but my husband is the beekeeper,” said Shim. “Last year when we got new bees, it was cold and rainy and even though Ray knows bees are cranky in the rain he wanted to get them out of the small box they were transported in and into the hive box. He will never do that again, he got several stings all over. I love that the bees are in charge, if they don't like the queen or the hive box for some reason they can just fly away. That may sound strange but it's a reminder of how powerful nature is, I also of course love tasting the differences in flavor each honey harvest brings.”
Phoenicia Honey is a current participant in HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA) program. “The support and expertise I have gotten from HVADC has been amazing, I have access to experts in every area that’s needed to grow my business,” Shim said, who has been working “with a great team” to finish a business plan and pitch for funding very soon. “Once my business plan is complete and I have some funding, I hope to upgrade some of my kitchen equipment to make my production faster.” She continued that the highlight of the experience has been meeting other participants to share knowledge and support each other.
The couple also worked with HVADC through its Incubator Without Walls program. Shim’s objective in her involvement with HVADC has been to gain information and expertise on scaling her business.
“Through the help of a business coach I learned ways to be more efficient with my time management and organization, among many other things,” said Shim. “My work with the financial expert, helped me to have a clearer understanding of my current sales and the steps needed to make my business viable. Working with HVADC’s marketing pro helped me to explore and decide how best to promote my business.”
“Phoenicia Honey has identified a healthy niche market for their distinctive infused honeys, gift sets, customized infusions and packaging for special events, ” said HVADC Deputy Director, Mary Ann Johnson. “Working with our consultants to develop a solid business plan, with an objective to seek funding, move forward and plan for the next stage of growth situates Phoenicia Honey for greater success.”
In addition to flavorful infused raw local honey, Phoenicia Honey produces limited production of beeswax scented candles, body scrub, body butter, vanilla honey Beez lip balm, lavender and calendula salve, raw honey body wash, serum sticks and other naturally made, honey-inspired goodies.
To learn more about HVADC’s FFFA program, visit https://www.hvadc.org/farmand-food-funding-accelerator. Phoenicia Honey may be found at www.phoeniciahoney.co.
Photo Source: Phoenicia Honey Co & HVADC