Monks at St. Gregory’s Abbey Prepare for Big Honey Harvest
By: Carla Hinton
Faith Editor – email@example.com
SHAWNEE — The drip, drip, drip of sweet golden liquid oozing into a trough can only mean one thing.
The monks at St. Gregory’s Abbey are in the midst of their biggest honey harvest ever.
The Rev. Simeon Spitz, the abbey’s resident beekeeper, said he can’t even estimate how much honey will be produced in the 2020 honey haul.
A test run of a new honey extractor was expected to produce between 800 and 1,000 pounds of honey.
And that was just the first day of the honey harvest, so Spitz said there will be plenty of the sweet treat available for sale beginning Friday.
“We just went from being a backyard beekeeper to the busiest honey operation in these parts,” he said recently.
The expanded honey operation is part of the monastic community’s plan to increase revenue to sustain the abbey.
Abbott Lawrence Stasyszen, the abbey’s leader, said the timing of the honey haul couldn’t have been better because they recently unveiled new branding for abbey products: Mission Monks LLC.
He said the honey will join other products on the shelves at the Mission Monks Marketplace on the abbey’s grounds,
Spitz, 37, traveled to Utah to purchase the new machine that is allowing the Benedictine monks to extract more honey at one time. He said he watched as the company’s representatives showed him how the extractor worked, but he felt he would learn more about how it operates by simply doing it.
The new extractor was sorely needed because the abbey increased its number of hives earlier this year.
Spitz said for the last 10 years, the abbey’s beekeeping operation has included about 30 honey bee hives or colonies.
This year, through a series of special circumstances, the monks were able to obtain hundreds more hives, bringing the total they manage to about 450.
Spitz said he could only run up to four honeycomb frames through the abbey’s old extractor but the new honey extractor runs up to 60 honeycomb frames. The old extractor took its own sweet time, but the new machine allows Spitz and other monks to speed the extraction process up significantly.
Stasyszen said many monks at the abbey are able to help with the honey harvest. During the recent test run of the new honey extractor, Stasyszen performed different tasks to help Spitz, while the Rev. Joachin Spexarth, 81, used a roller that looked like a corn cob to help catch any wax caps that the extractor didn’t separate from the honeycomb frames.
Stasyszen said the abbey will find ways to use the beeswax, perhaps by using it to make candles, lip balm and other products destined for the marketplace shop.
Stasyszen said he and other monks have also helping out with the expanded enterprise by doing other things like putting new Mission Monks labels on jars of honey.
“One of our goals is to work together to built community. We’ll all have that through this,” he said.
A built-in honey fan base was created when the monks sought out members of the community to keep some of the newly acquired bee colonies on their properties. Spitz said these “hive hosts” have been interested in all the details of honey production and many of them have gone out of their way to be helpful to the monks and the bees in their midst.
They have helped the abbey get the word out about the honey haul, so much so that Spitz is expecting people who live three hours away or more to show up to get the sweet treat. The abbey has also been getting phone calls from others inquiring about honey, so the monks expect the new, larger production effort will pay off with sweet dividends.
Spitz said there’s just one aspect of the new expanded operation that he’s not so happy about.
He said the old extractor worked in such a way that he always got doused with honey so that he had to lick it off his fingers occasionally.
The new extractor is much more neat and tidy so the monk said he’s had no excuse to sample the merchandise as he works.