Blog :: 01-2015

The Steep Rock Honey Project

The preserve is one of the treasures of the Washington area; a magical place to hike, walk a dog, ride a horse or simply appreciate nature. We are so lucky to have so many talented local volunteers who work tirelessly to maintain Steep Rock for us to enjoy. The chair of the Steep Rock Association board, our friend Kirsten Feldman, has initiated the Steep Rock Honey Project which maintains and harvests raw honey from different areas in Washington, CT.

There are hives in seven locations in the Town of Washington. Each one has its own microclimate, soil and flora. These include Macricostas Preserve, Lake Waramaug, West Church Hill Road, Nichol Hills Road, Hidden Valley Preserve, Plumb Hill Road, Shearer Road and one is planned in the Steep Rock Preserve for 2016. The delicate hint of wildflower wetlands, lavender bushes and a mature linden tree are just some of the different environments that make each batch have a unique taste and aroma.

Just like other members of the community, Kirsten enjoys the beauty and open spaces of Steep Rock. She often rides her horse or hikes on the trails and is inspired in her commitment to preserving them for the future.

We recently asked Kirsten about the Steep Rock Honey project and the first year of selling this unique raw honey:

Steep Rock seems to be a very special place for you, can you explain why?

Having hiked all over the world, I appreciate how fortunate we are to have Steep Rock in our back yards. With the three distinct preserves (Steep Rock, Hidden Valley and Macricostas), I can hike in the woods, along a river and up to three different pinnacles, each with spectacular views. The experience is also different in each season. I never get tired of these hikes and I never take it for granted.

This was the first season of selling Steep Rock honey during the holiday period. Was it successful?

Our first season was a tremendous success. Our initial supply of honey was somewhat limited and we sold out in the first two weekends of December. As our hives mature, we will have more honey to sell each holiday season. We even mailed bottles of honey to a Washingtonian living in Arizona for the winter who wanted a "taste of Steep Rock"! The project contributed over $3,000 to Steep Rock from the small 2014 vintage of honey. Also, because we harvest once per year, our honey reflects a full year of nectar from the Town of Washington. It truly is delicious!

The bottling and logo are very distinctive, who came up with the creative concepts?

I collaborated with Abbie Zabar, a noted author and designer. Our goal was to create packaging that was evocative of Steep Rock and the hand spun, artisanal nature of the product as well as being a special holiday gift. I believe that local honey is like fine wine and we endeavored to present it that way.

What are the future plans for Steep Rock honey?

We anticipate having a somewhat larger supply of honey in 2015 if all of our hives make it through the winter and we don't lose many to bears. While our plan is to sell the honey only during the holidays, honey lasts forever and it can be used for hostess gifts all year long. Our goal is to raise at least $10,000 per year for the trails and to have honey be to Steep Rock as cookies are to Girl Scouts! While we want to satisfy our local customers first, it would be most exciting if we discovered demand for our honey beyond the borders of Washington.

There seemed to be great support among the local merchants, can you elaborate on that?

Our retail partners supported the effort by selling the honey with no profit (retail markup) to themselves. Special thanks to J. Seitz & Co., the Hickory Stick Bookshop, Nine Main and the Community Table Restaurant. As a result, all of the proceeds from sales went directly to Steep Rock. In addition, numerous local businesses purchased Steep Rock Honey as a local corporate gift for their clients. We have had a number of organizations ask us to accept pre orders of the 2015 vintage, which we will do. 

Here is a photo of Kirsten at work with the hives. We are so proud to be a part of a community with so many passionate, creative and committed individuals. It is also truly remarkable that our local stores took no mark up to ensure that 100% of the profits go directly back to fund the preserve. To read more about the Steep Rock Association, click here.

In Our Neighborhood: A Visit to Bantam, CT

The Bantam Cinema is Connecticut's oldest continuously operated movie house. Opened in 1927 as 'The Rivoli', it originally showed silent movies accompanied by a Wurlitzer organ. There were several owners since that time but in 1990 it was thoroughly modernized by Lisa Hedley who also co-founded the Mayflower Spa. She started the 'Meet the Filmaker' series in which writers, actors and directors (Mia Farrow, William Styron and Arthur Miller to name a few...) discussed their work with the audience. In 2007, Ms. Hedley sold the cinema to David Koch, Sidney Koch and Elizabeth Merz who continued the series and brought Daniel Day-Lewis, Rebecca Miller and Joan Rivers to the theater.

Coming this January are three unique films:The Imitation Game, a story of war hero Alan Turing who in 1952 is arrested on charges of indecent activity; Foxcatcher which stars Steve Carell and tells of the relationship between a multi-millionare and two wrestlers and lastly, A Most Violent Year which highlights a particularly bloody period in New York City. To read more about the Bantam Cinema and for movie times, click here.

Before or after your visit to the cinema, a great local BBQ is right next door. Woodie, the owner of Wood's Pit BBQ, learned his culinary skills and knowledge of Mexican dishes during a long excursion in and around Arizona. He made another journey to the South including the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida to learn the magic of authentic pit BBQ and how to create the secret 'dry rub' that is still used today. Woodie can be found in the kitchen every morning, six days a week to make sure the tradition of great cooking continues in the restaurant. Some of the local favorites include pulled pork, ribs and fajitas. The maragritas are definitely worth a try and are made frozen, up or on the rocks. To see more menu options, click here.

Another great place to visit in the town is the Bantam Bread Company. This is perfect place to purchase artisanal breads and rustic pastries made fresh every day. The shop also features many local products including honey, maple syrup, cheese, seasonal organic fruit and vegetables as well as the work of local artisans. They also carry a wonderful selection of imported and regional cheeses as well butters. You can also find unique jams and jellies, mustards, oils, vinegars, sauces, tea and coffee. For more details on what is in the store, please click here.

A must stop in Bantam is the Arethusa Farm Dairy Ice Cream store. All the delicious flavors are made locally on the farm with the milk from their own dairy herd. You can also buy a wide range of Arethusa cheeses to take home. Right next door is Al Tavolo, a gourmet bistro run by the owners of the Arethusa, which is the epitome of a farm to table restaurant. The roasted beef tenderloin with a farm fresh cheese crust or the roasted Amish chicken ballantine wrapped with rillette are just some of savory dinner choices on the menu. This is exquisite spot for a dinner with friends or a celebratory meal. See more Al Tavolo menu options by clicking here.

Make it your New Year's resolution to vist Bantam, CT, one of the most charming towns in Litchfield County!