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Of the Earth: Greenfield to buzz with Bee Fest activities Saturday

  • Corey Sanderson, the pastor at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, plays his banjo while walking with children from Karen’s Dance Studio in last year’s Bee Fest parade around the Town Common. Recorder File Photo

  • LANGSTROTH

  • BLIXT



For the Recorder
Tuesday, June 05, 2018

To Bee or Not to Bee: That is the question. Whether t’is nobler in the mind to suffer the stings and yarrow of outrageous fortune, or to enjoy Saturday’s ninth annual Langstroth Bee Fest on the lawn at Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church.

Actually, that isn’t much of a choice, and not even Hamlet would spend much time brooding over it. The pun begins at 9:30 a.m. just off the Town Common.

Rarely has an event been as thematically coherent as Bee Fest has become, drawing on apiary inspiration for a full schedule of education, entertainment, good eating and hijinks. Normally, you wouldn’t find a word like “hijinks” in a solemn column like this. But the fact is, downtown will become a hive of activity that will clearly involve a general buzz of hijinks — a bee parade through the farmers market, a larger-than-life bee piñata, bee arts and crafts, children’s dances, adult lectures and culinary surprises.

The theme this year is “A Taste of Honey,” as local restaurants (look for the Bee Fest logo) feature honey on their menus, Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center provides bee-appropriate food creations, and lectures focus on cooking with honey and its attendant health benefits.

The queen bee in all this is Sandy Thomas, who literally stumbled over something odd about a decade ago: a small monument in front of the church honoring Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth (1810-1895). Langstroth, it turns out, was principal of the Greenfield High School for Young Ladies and a pastor of the Second Congregational Church with a lifelong fascination with bees.

“I may have seen that plaque any number of times,” Thomas confessed, “but when I actually read it, I realized, we have to look into this and come up with something.”

What really distinguishes Langstroth, Thomas learned, is that he invented the revolutionary moveable frame hive, for which he received a patent in 1852, and which has been absolutely essential to beekeeping and beekeepers ever since. The moveable frame hive makes it easy to inspect hives for disease, to monitor the health of colonies and to harvest honey.

Langstroth also authored a seminal work on the science of bees in agriculture, titled “Langstroth on the Hive & the Honey-Bee: A Bee Keeper’s Manual.”

Not one to let sleeping Langstroths lie, Thomas teamed up with Dan Conlon, who runs Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield and is president of the Franklin County Beekeepers Association, to launch what has become a yearly event to honor Langstroth’s contributions and to raise public awareness regarding bees and their critical role in agriculture, as well as the art and science of beekeeping. There is also a permanent installation dedicated to Langstroth’s legacy in the narthex of the church.

As some background, there are nearly 20,000 known species of bees, and that they are found on every continent except Antarctica and in every habitat that contains flowering plants. Also, there are about 4,500 beekeepers managing 45,000 hives in Massachusetts. More than 45 percent of agricultural commodities in Massachusetts rely on bees for crop pollination.

This year, the 10 to 11:30 a.m. Langstroth lectures bring together Dan Conlon on the “History and Influence of Honey of Society;” Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture John Lebeaux on the role of bees in the state’s agricultural economy; University of Massachusetts Amherst pastry chef Pamela Adams on “Baking with Honey,” and UMass Amherst professor Lynn Adler on “Sunflower Pollen and Bee Disease.” Rep. Steve Kulik will present three Bee Space Garden Award plaques by potter Molly Cantor. Church music director Leea Snape will present Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Bee Baskets, valued at up to $250, will be raffled, with proceeds going to the Heifer Project and the Just Roots community garden. I won’t spoil any of the festival’s culinary surprises, except to pass along the following gracious offering from Evelyn Wulfkuhle at Magpie.

Magpie generally brings over a stack of honey pies (a honey drizzled dessert pizza) to give away at the festival.

“But since folks aren’t likely to make those at home,” Wulfkuhle noted, “I talked with Sandy about including one of our other (many) honey-themed menu items: our house dressing! We use a great deal of honey from Warm Colors Apiary, whom we love!”

Magpie Honey-Balsamic Dressing

Ingredients:

1 part white balsamic vinegar

1 part red balsamic vinegar

½ part honey

6 parts olive oil (or a canola/olive oil blend)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk or blend until emulsified. Use as dressing, dip or marinade.

In case there was any doubt, ¾ cup of honey can be supplemented for a cup of sugar in recipes, and other liquids in a recipe should be reduced by ¼ cup per cup of honey. Baking temperatures should be lowered by 25 degrees to prevent overbrowning.

Wesley Blixt lives in Greenfield. He is a longtime reporter and is the author of “SKATERS: A Novel.” Send him recipes, stories and suggestions at wesleyblixt@me.com.