How Sweet It Is!
When Gabe first met Rhonna he is not ashamed to admit that it was her mini-skirted legs that caught his attention. That was back in 1969 and they just celebrated their 41st anniversary this week, so I think they have worked it out! At that time Gabe had just finished Marshall where he majored in business and was working in the office and then sales for a local office/school supply company. They purchased land out beyond Huntington’s Heritage Farm and used some pigs to help clear the honeysuckle off the hillsides.
Growing up on German Ridge, Gabe’s dad had a dairy farm and they also had some hives. The dairy farm is long gone now, but the skills with the bees came back as he decided to start with one hive. Rhonna wanted nothing to do with it, feeling the typical apprehension most of us have about getting stung. She said one day she watched from the window as Gabe was working with a hive and decided to join him, suited up and has been involved ever since.
Several large tanks can hold 30 gallons of honey. A dehumidifier is also an important piece of equipment in the work area, especially in the summer; if there is too much humidity honey can start to ferment.
Gabe reported that in West Virginia, a hive produces about 38 pounds of honey on the average annually. Last year was a bit less; this year seems to be better. A quart of honey is about three pounds. Rhonna points out that honey and bees have some medicinal uses, not only to help with seasonal pollen allergies, but some people also have had excellent results with other immune system illnesses such as MS and arthritis.
Blatt’s Bee Farm provides quarts of honey to the Wild Ramp. Rhonna also makes beeswax Christmas ornaments that are for sale. She says she stores hers flat in the attic, so they do get soft in the summer heat but keeping them flat helps maintain the shape and she has hung the same ones on their tree for years. Gabe is considering providing a few more products: honey with the honeycomb in pint jars as well as chucks of beeswax blocks for quilters and also beeswax for waterproofing boots.
Gabe and Rhonna Blatt
Blatt’s Bee Farm
3554 Heney Branch Road
Huntington, WV 25704
The Blatts were voted Beekeeper of the Year in 2009 by the West Virginia Beekeepers Association and Gabe is the President of the Cabell County Beekeepers Association.