Catching the Buzz
By Carolyn Shea
Benjamin and Emily (Plott) Pixie ’05
Pixie Honey brings sweet energy to feeding the community.
Benjamin Pixie, shown here in his booth at the Olympia Farmers Market, is featured in the 2011 children's picture book, To Market, To Market, by Olympia artist and Greener Nikki McClure ’91. The book explores how the local foods she and her family eats are produced.
It started with mead, that intoxicating elixir of honey, yeast and water. Benjamin Pixie, long enamored with bees, began brewing the honey wine about a decade ago. “I was intrigued by using honey for fermentation,” he says. “I’d been in love with honey and bees and studied them for a really long time. That opened the door for keeping bees.”
Pixie quickly advanced from enthusiast to apiarist. At first, he managed 40 beehives. Within two years, he had 200, and his honeybee colonies were pollinating organic blooms from Thurston County to as far away as Trout Lake, 200 miles southeast. He has since pruned back the number of hives he tends to about a hundred, a more manageable quantity to handle alone, he says.
Five years ago, he started his apicultural business, the Pixie Honey Company, with his wife, Emily (Plott) Pixie ’05, who he met in an Evergreen ethnobotany program. Their flagship product, Pixie Honey, is available year-round at the Olympia Food Co-op and seasonally at the Olympia Farmers Market in a multitude of varieties, from echinacea to fireweed to blackberry. In any given season, the company may offer up to a dozen or so different types, garnered from bees that visit one kind of flower or a mix of floral sources as they gather nectar.
A medicinal herbalist who studied at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine (and helps out at the Olympia Free Herbal Clinic), Pixie harvests dozens of wild ingredients for his products, which also include bee pollen, beeswax candles and a line of botanical extracts and salves. Some of his honeys are infused with the wild-foraged plants he has collected, like roses, mint and balsamroot.
Pixie practices natural beekeeping, an approach that renounces the use of chemical pesticides, insecticides and antibiotics to control the mites, parasites and viruses plaguing honeybees. He has been experimenting with organic acids and essential oils to treat sickened bees.
When he’s not out tending his hives, or collecting, extracting and bottling honey, he can often be found at the weekend farmers market, manning the Pixie Honey table, where rows of glass jars glimmer with colors ranging from pale golden amber to reddish brown. The honey is also distributed by an online direct sales service called Wholly Locally Grown, a virtual farmers market that connects local farmers and producers with customers in the area.
He still homebrews mead, the oldest libation known to humanity. And with his bees, he is also participating in one the most ancient forms of food production. “It’s wonderful work,” he says. “A lot of my time and energy is invested in the growing world and I get to bring the sweetness from the flowering of that world back to feed the community.”