When Ernie and Sabrina Santoro of Orange started growing grapevines, sunflowers and perennials at their farm on Derby Milford Road, they didn't expect they'd end up keeping livestock.
But life takes us on interesting paths. And a fascination with bees (and access to a whole lot of flowers) led Sabrina to incorporate honey among the soaps, flowers, jams and jellies on the shelves of .
This season, the Santoros have taken a new step in their beekeeping. Summer means flowers, and with the flowers come the bees -- and the Santoros aren't missing any chance to put their bees to work on a new venture. Two weeks ago they debuted this year's line of honey, including a newly trademarked brand called "Spunny."
"It's honey that is deliberately crystallized, but it's a controlled crystallization," says Sabrina, referring to the often gritty crystallization process honey goes through. "I save a seed starter, and I keep a little bit from each batch to start a new batch. It's very creamy, and there's no grit. You can buy creamed honey, and it's gritty, but this one is very smooth."
The Santoros experimented with selling Spunny to area farms and at their farm store last fall, but this year's harvest is bigger than ever. It joins their regular line of honey, which includes combed honey -- "literally from the hive to you," says Sabrina, "so everything good the bees produce is from that honeycomb. It's honey in its most natural state."
Sabrina has grown close to her nine beehives in the two years she's been making honey. She started as a retiree with no experience dealing with bees, but a history of making soap and a love of the highly social insects. She's been stung a few times, but it doesn't faze her.
She keeps busy -- she's also the market master at the . But she always finds time to care for her bees.
"The whole way they produce honey," she says, is fascinating to her. "The work they put into producing honey, the deliciousness of the honey that comes out of the hive. They're organized, they're peaceful. Each bee knows which hive it belongs to. If you sit and watch the bees you'll see there are bees at the entrance to each hive checking to make sure each one that comes in belongs to that hive. So even though these bees look the same to us, they don't look the same to each other. And the way they dote on their queen ... I find it fascinating and peaceful. When i'm out there checking on them, it's kind of getting lost."
You can check out Sunflower Farm's newly trademarked honey at their store at 767 Derby Milford Road. You can also check out Sunflower Farm's website.