Who We Are
We (Brad and Anika) live in lovely SE Portland and have kept bees at various residences throughout the area, including now in our backyard. Beekeeping for years as a hobby, it was Brad’s love of honey bees that was the genesis for Portland Bee Balm. True to the DIY spirit they were brought up in, Brad and Anika set out to create a high quality product that reflected the social and environmental values they hold true. It was this same spirit that allowed Brad to express his love of woodworking in the display cases he builds for our product.
We believe that the world needs more beekeepers. Beekeeping creates a powerful link between the keeper and their natural environment. Once you start keeping bees you will become keenly aware of the first blooms of spring, the last of fall, and every change in between. Guided by these beliefs and this insight, we make Portland Bee Balm with wax from northwest Oregon hives and just a few other carefully sourced organic and local ingredients, displayed in lovingly handcrafted cases.
Environmental and Social Responsibility
As responsible citizens, we believe it is our duty to minimize our negative impact and maximize the positive effect we can have on the environment and people. From the ingredients we source, to the packaging we use, to our interactions with our customers, we strive to be a business that supports the health and well-being of the environment, our community, and, of course, bees and their keepers.
Our four ingredients come from sustainable and/or local sources: Certified organic coconut and olive oil, Oregon beeswax, and Oregon organic peppermint oil.
Ink used on our label is soy based, which helps us reduce our use of fossil fuels (a non-renewable resource).
All of our displays are handmade by a Portland woodworker and painted with our own mixture of naturally occurring shellac resin (from the lac bug) and grain alcohol. Our art installation displays are designed, built and painted by Brad and Portland artist Forest Menke-Thielman.
From energy use to chemical discharge, paper production has some serious negative consequences to public health and the environment. We try to mitigate these impacts by not using paper for our labels. Made of non-pulped wood, our labels use fewer chemicals and less energy in their manufacturing. Our label was designed by Portland artists. In a continuous effort to support other small and local business they are printed and cut by a Portland company.
The Importance of Supporting Bees & Their Keepers
One third of all our crops are pollinated by bees. That’s one in every three bites of every meal you eat. They are an integral part of our food system, and without them we would have a much harder time getting food onto our tables.
In addition to their industriousness, bees do a lot to connect us to our community and environment. As beekeepers, we know that they raise our awareness to the seasons, flora and fauna, and natural world around us. As community members, we benefit from bees pollinating our gardens and neighboring keepers sharing their honey and wax.
Sadly, bees are currently facing serious issues that threaten their long term health and viability. They are a fragile species, deeply impacted by what is going on in the world around them. This proverbial “canary in the coal mine” status that alerts us to hazards they (and we) may face has recently come into play.
Each year since 2006, commercial beekeepers have lost roughly one third of their hives in such a devastating manner. The phenomenon has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder, and it mystifies scientists.
The jury is still out on the cause of CCD, but a variety of theories exist from use of specific pesticides, exposure to pollen from certain genetically modified crops, a changing climate, food and water scarcity and increased risk from a number of pathogens and parasites.
By now many have heard the unsettling statisitc that most of the food we consume has traveled over 1500 miles to reach our plates. Having a clear picture of what happens during those 1500 miles of travel, on the other hand, is less understood. From sending money out of our communities, to having no idea where our food comes from, to consuming food that is often of poorer quality and nutrition is just the beginning. Honey by no means escapes this woebegone story line.
The US imports more than half of all the honey it consumes. Much of that may be coming from unsustainable and possibly questionable sources. There are a lot of wonderful producers of honey throughout the world, and if buying from outside of the US we encourage you to look for organic and fair trade options. But with the growing interest in and supply of honey from US based beekeepers, there is great opportunity to support your local beekeeper and look for sources from a lot closer to home.
What You Can Do
Want to help ensure that bees can thrive globally and in your neighborhood? There is a lot you can do to help. Try one, or all, of the suggestions below and know that collectively our small actions can make a big impact.
SUPPORT YOUR HARDWORKING BEES AND THEIR KEEPERS – Buy honey that comes from your region and support the hard working beekeepers who are helping keep bees in your community and food on your table.
BUY SUSTAINABLY PRODUCED FOOD AND PRODUCTS – More sustainable practices and fewer chemicals used in agriculture means healthier habitats for bees (not to mention all of the benefits for farmers, farm workers, neighboring communities, and our waterways).
PLANT A GARDEN – Whether you live in the country or in the middle of the city, a flower garden will provide food for bees, regardless of where it is grown.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH! – How you care for your yard and garden impacts the health of bees. Home use of pesticides can significantly impair and reduce bee populations in your area – opt for sustainable home maintenance methods like organic gardening practices.
KEEP YOUR OWN BEES – Want an endless supply of honey, to make your (and your neighbor’s) garden flourish, and a strong connection to the natural environment? Start your own hive, and follow us on Facebook to learn how we may be able to help!