Face of a Food Champion: Pat Ennis
Increased interest in raw, local honey has helped Spring Valley Honey Farms expand. In 2013 they added two new jobs to help keep up with demand—that of a sales person and an additional beekeeper.
|Pat Ennis, who manages bees throughout northern Iowa, says, “People want locally produced food and in the case of honey they want it raw and pure.” Photo contributed by Peggy Ennis.|
“Our sales are up because people are looking for a raw product,” says Pat Ennis, who runs the northern division of Spring Valley Honey, “that’s why we added a second person to the sales room.”
That new person is his wife. By taking over honey bottling and sales, and expanding the business’ market to reach grocery stores and the Mason City Farmers Market, she now makes twice as much compared to her previous, off-farm job.
“Most people think when they talk to me that I have a few hives, but I run bees from over by Charles City to Mason City down to Belmond, Webster City and Fort Dodge,” says Ennis, whose crew comprises four other beekeepers, including a new hire. The southern division of Spring Valley Honey, managed by owner Curt Bonnenberg, has bees from Stratford to the Missouri border.
Approximately 15 percent of Ennis’ sales are through farmers markets, 25 percent through the on-farm store, and 60 percent through wholesale. Much of the wholesale honey goes to Sue Bee Honey, another Iowa company.
Spring Valley’s direct-marketing sales continue to grow strong as consumers learn more about honey. Ennis explains that most grocery store honey is heated and pressure-filtered to increase its shelf life. The filtration removes pollen particles that would cause the honey to crystallize. The heating, while it may destroy microbes, also destroys many of the honey’s natural enzymes.
Ennis believes that consumers who are aware of this processing prefer raw honey, which is unheated and retains beneficial enzymes. Raw honey also is filtered by a simpler method and contains local pollen particles. He explains that this is important for consumers who believe it helps them build immunity to allergens.
“If you want something [raw and] local the best place to get it is at the farmers market or to know a beekeeper,” says Ennis. He adds that Spring Valley’s sales also have increased because of the exposure the business gets through Healthy Harvest of North Iowa.
“Advertising is a key to success in any business… through [Healthy Harvest’s] website and the newspaper and pamphlets available at farmers markets it lets people know we are there,” says Ennis. He says when new customers visit the show room in Goodell, they’re asked how they heard of the farm. “They see [us] in the newspaper or the Buy Fresh, Buy Local directory. We know our advertising is beneficial to us.”
Spring Valley primarily sells honey, but their product range includes bees, wax, propolis, pollen and other secondary hive products. The company also provides pollination services to fruit, vegetable and nut producers. Ennis says they sent seven semi trucks of bees to California last winter to pollinate almond trees. In the summer, their bees pollinate crops throughout Iowa.
About this story
This story was produced to accompany a report documenting the impact of the local food industry on Iowa’s economy associated with the efforts of the Regional Food Systems Working Group. Consult the statewide report: 2012 Economic Impacts of Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group.
For more information on the local foods work occurring in the northern region, visit the Healthy Harvest of North Iowa website.