The pursuit of the perfect is the pursuit of sweetness and light.” –Matthew Arnold

Here is the link to my picture on the Central City Farmers' Market website

Charleston Daily Mail

O'Hanlon state's sweetest judge

Jessica M. Karmasek
Daily Mail staff


Judge Dan O'Hanlon jokes with Diana Adkins, 50, of Lavalette, after selling her a honey bear at the Central City Farmers Market Saturday. O'Hanlon has been keeping bees and making honey on his New Wind Rising Farm in Huntington since 1988. He just started selling his honey at the Huntington farmers market this year.
Monday July 24, 2006

HUNTINGTON -- By day, Judge Dan O'Hanlon is your typical circuit court judge, locking up bad guys and settling disputes.

But in his spare time, this judge has developed an unlikely hobby: honey-making.

"I always wonder why I feel so safe when I'm reaching into hives with over 10,000 bees buzzing around. It's kind of crazy," O'Hanlon said. "But then I think of the kind of people I deal with every day -- mean people -- and I realize no one's going to bother me when I'm around those bees."

Every Saturday, O'Hanlon packs up his truck full of honey pots and treks down to the Central City Farmers Market in Huntington to peddle his homemade product.

Usually, he can sell 12 quart-size jars, six pint-size jars, 12 honey bear-shaped squeeze bottles and 20 8 oz. jars in a matter of two or three hours - making $200 or more each Saturday. His quart-size jars, honeycomb included, usually sell out by 9 a.m.

Not too bad for a beginner.

O'Hanlon has been keeping bees and making honey on his New Wind Rising Farm in Huntington since 1988. But he just started selling his honey at the farmers market this year.

"My wife said to me, ‘What are we going to do with all this extra honey?' That's when I decided we could try selling it," he said.

But O'Hanlon says he's not in it for the money. Honey-making is merely a hobby for this judge.

For him, meeting new people, seeing familiar faces and sharing the fruits of his labor every Saturday is the icing on the cake.

"Some people come by every week," he said. "So I get to know people, see friends and hear stories about how their dad or uncle or grandfather was a beekeeper. It's really neat."

Even better is hearing people's reasons for buying the sweet nectar, O'Hanlon said.

"A local allergist --a friend of mine --told me the local honey, because of the pollen in it, helps with allergy symptoms. Just take a spoon of the local honey every day before the allergy season starts, he says, and you'll feel a lot better. I couldn't believe it," he said.

One customer told the judge he used the honey as a salve-like ointment on a large wound. When the wound healed, there was virtually no scar.

"I couldn't believe it. I never thought honey would do that," O'Hanlon said.

Marion Sansom, a Huntington resident and first-time customer of O'Hanlon, said she uses honey for chicken and turkey glazes, cereal topping and as an alternative to sugar.

"We use a lot of honey at our house. And I thought his was delicious. I'll definitely come back," said Sansom, 72.

First-time customer Robert Green said people often don't recognize the benefits of honey and the bees that make it. Green's father, I.E. Green, was a local beekeeper and also made his own honey.

"Local honey is a good thing. People don't realize how good it is for you," Green said.

People often don't realize the work that goes into producing the gooey sweetener either, he says.

"There's a lot of work that people don't see. You have to build a hive, and sometimes the equipment can be expensive. It's very labor-intensive, too," he said. "That's why I appreciate what he's doing here."

O'Hanlon has about 17 fully formed hives. A fully formed hive, he says, can cost about $150.

Some West Virginia beekeepers actually sell their hives to farmers in other states, O'Hanlon said. For example, in California, almond growers use the hives to better pollinate their produce.

"Honey, to me, is amazing. It's nature giving you something natural," he said.

Even more amazing is that honey lasts forever.

"They've actually opened up Egyptian tombs and ate the honey they found. It's the only food that doesn't spoil," O'Hanlon said.

It also comes in different flavors and colors.

"It tastes different every time. It's just like wine, in that sense. If the sun is different and the rain is different, you're going to end with a slightly different product," O'Hanlon said.

Sometimes the honey is red; other times it's gold. Sometimes it's even white.

"It just depends on what flowers the bees have been pollinating," O'Hanlon said.

For those who can't catch O'Hanlon on Saturdays at the farmers market, his honey also is sold in the market's storefront.

Store manager Michelle Gue said customer response to O'Hanlon's honey has been tremendous. Many compliment him on his honey's warm glow and affordable prices, she said.

"It's a hobby for him, but he really enjoys it, and I think customers appreciate his hard work," Gue said.

Though he considers his homemade honey amateur compared to that of other beekeepers, he is proud of the blue ribbon he won the very first year he entered his honey in the Cabell County Fair.

It was 1998 and he won $2. For him, it was a momentous occasion.

"I grew up outside Chicago, but I had relatives who were farmers in Nebraska. WheneverI'd go to visit them, I'd be so envious of my cousins. We would go to these county fairs, and they'd win all these blue ribbons. I wanted a blue ribbon, too," he said. "Now I've got one and I'm very proud of it."

Of course, getting stung isn't fun. But O'Hanlon says it's worth the little red bumps.

"You have to have a passion for it. I just love making honey. I look forward to it everyday," he said.

Copyright 2005 Charleston Daily Mail