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Sweeter Than Honey

            The beaches are full of rainbow-colored umbrellas. At twilight, bright sundresses swish in and out of candlelit restaurants. The sound of a steel drum can be heard echoing across the ocean, as bars along the beach get ready for another night in Cape May. Its summertime and this quiet shore town has woken up from the winter slumber. Visitors looking for some quiet tranquility head out to Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May, where the only sound heard coming over the vast open fields is the foghorn from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. As you walk around the back field, enjoying the brightest sun and bluest sky, you come closer to a row of large white boxes, and the quiet starts to fade. They look rather unassuming, but there’s a noise coming from those strange white structures.  A noise that has visitors asking, “what’s the buzz in West Cape May?”

            The sweet, short, simple answer is: honeybees. That’s right. Beach Plum Farm is home to twelve honeybee hives that can produce from 100 to150 pounds of honey per hive. Every year, there are two harvests; one in mid-July and again later in the year.  Honeybees can travel up to three miles collecting nectar and pollen from different plants. Their sense of smell gives them a heightened sense of direction that allows them to come right back to the hive and deposit the nectar and pollen to create honey. Once it’s ready to harvest, beekeepers remove honeycomb frames from the hives and scrape off the wax caps created by the bees. The frames are then placed in an extractor or a centrifuge, which spins the frame until all of the honey is drained from the comb. The honey is then strained to remove any pieces of wax or other substances. It is then bottled and sold at the farm stand at Beach Plum Farm for guests to take home and enjoy as a treat or a healthy way to sweeten a cozy cup of tea. 

            Two miles from the farm, the Blue Pig Tavern offers some of that cozy brew that guests are looking for year-round.  Not far from the homes of the honeybees at Beach Plum farm, a field of Lemon Verbena waves in the West Cape May wind, casting a citrusy fragrance into the salty air. Lemon Verbena is a green leafy plant that emits a lemon-scent when the leaves are bruised. It is often times mixed with other herbs, like mint (also grown at Beach Plum Farm) to create fresh and delicious tea.  Sometimes utilized as a seasoning for various types of culinary dishes, Lemon Verbena has various medicinal functions.  Believed to have the power to kill mites and bacteria, it is used to treat digestive disorders and insomnia.  Due to its sweet fragrance, it is currently used in manufacturing perfume.

             Honeybees play an essential role in ensuring the sustainability of agriculture. During pollination, they transfer pollen between plants, allowing them to make seeds and reproduce. This includes fruit, nuts, and vegetables enabling the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in North America.  Recently, the honeybee population throughout the world has fallen victim to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that has caused more than fifty percent of the honeybee population in the United States to die off. Colony Collapse Disorder is believed to be caused by mites, bacteria, and pesticides that have ruined the bee’s sense of smell. In June of 2014, President Obama issued a public statement calling for a task force of agencies to address the issue of the diminishing honeybees. He recommended a $50 million budget that would boost research and conservation programs to answer questions regarding the loss of various pollinators. The beehives at Beach Plum Farm have remained healthy in recent years, due mostly to the fact that unnatural pesticides are not used within the 3-mile vicinity that the honeybees feed off of. Building a sustainable community in West Cape May now ensures that future generations will be able to park their rainbow colored umbrellas in the sand, visit candlelit restaurants, and enjoy the sound of the steel drum band as it floats over the ocean for years to come. You can come see first hand how Beach Plum Farm operates as a sustainable community. Come for a guided or self- guided tour, or stop by the farm stand and take home farm fresh produce!

Visit https://www.caperesorts.com/experiences/capemay/beachplumfarm for more information about Beach Plum Farm.