Hi, I am Adriana Compagnoni, the beekeeper from South Mountain Bees.
Before I dive into our story, our values and our mission, I want to address the pressing times we are living, and the difficult times ahead.
I feel like curling up into a ball, but instead I want to do something to help. That’s why I’m announcing that for as long as we can sustain it, we will be running “Buy One, Give One”. For each soap you purchase, we will give one soap on your behalf to the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless.
I’ve been keeping bees for eight years; hard to believe it’s been that long already. I still feel like a beginner most of the time.
I am also an enthusiastic organic gardener. I’m obsessed with avoiding pesticides, herbicides, and any other -cides at all costs. I painstakingly pick up slugs by hand (with gloves, ew!) when they come out by the hundreds after 11PM in the summer.
As you probably know, by 2011 the number of honeybee colonies in the US had been sharply declining for over two decades, and colony collapse disorder had become a household name. There are so many factors that it’s somehow nobody’s fault. It’s a case of death by a thousand cuts. Recent studies have shown that commercial farming and gardening practices are reducing pollinators numbers at staggering speed.
The summer of 2011 we visited friends in the Nebbiolo region of Piedmont, Italy. It was a sunny afternoon; they had two hives of buzzing honeybees, and we sat in the shade of centenary chestnut trees to savor acacia and chestnut honey that they had harvested that year. I was ready to retire! What else could anybody want?
That was a pivotal moment. We then said, this is it! We are going to do our part. We decided to transition our garden into a pollinator haven, and found out how to keep bees. The rewards were bound to be sweet!
We landscaped our yard using as many natives as possible, and we continued growing our vegetables using organic practices.
I joined the Essex County Beekeepers Society (ECBS), my local chapter of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association (NJBA), and I took their beginners beekeeping course.
In April 2012, we got our first bees, and our backyard beekeeping family adventure began. We started with two hives and a lot of enthusiasm. We were busy, but we felt it was important to dedicate time and resources to care for the bees.
We started to wonder what we were going to do with the beeswax that was accumulating in our freezer after each honey harvest. I looked into a local artist that was doing encaustic painting, but then I found a recipe of furniture polish using beeswax, that ended up being my first butcher block’s paste.
That gave me the idea of eliminating as many pesticides as possible from our daily life. The ideal candidate was soap. The kids were old enough to have lye in the house, and we all use soap many times a day, so that single product will make a big difference in our chemical footprint. Next came lip balm. I don’t know if there are any studies of how much lip balm we end up eating, but if any, we want it to have no chemicals in it.
Keeping bees keeps us honest. To the best of our ability we use ingredients that do not hurt the bees.
The next step was to offer our products to those who shared our values, and in February 2015 we opened our online store.
Our products are carefully crafted in small batches using honey and beeswax. We spend countless hours caring for our hip suburban honeybees, which live a healthy life sheltered from the harmful chemicals of traditional commercial farming, foraging freely in the South Mountain Reservation, and in our neighbors’ yards. Having the bees have brought change to the neighborhood, not only you can see more flowers, but many neighbors have told me how they changed the way they care for their lawn, and how they started planting pollinator friendly plants for our bees.
With every bar of soap, tin of lip balm, or jar of honey that you purchase, you are joining us in helping save the honeybee. In return, the bees will reward you with the amazing products they help us create, provide free pollination services to the neighborhood gardeners, and help produce wild fruits and berries for the local wildlife.
Join us in our mission to help create a world where we can meet our needs and even our wants without hurting our environment.