Chestnut Hill man hopes to take his honey bee operation commerical

Shoppers at the Weavers Way Co-op in Chestnut Hill may soon be able to purchase honey produced less than two blocks from the store’s front door.

West Southampton Avenue resident Benjamin Brown has cultivated the sweet stuff on and off for years and given it away to friends and family. But recently, the backyard operation has grown and Brown has had too much honey on his hands.

“As I get more and more bees I don’t have enough friends to get rid of all my honey,” he said.


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Going commercial

To remedy the situation, Brown has decided to take things commercial at the suggestion of the store’s grocery manager. But he’ll first need approval from the city and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

While homeowners don’t need permission to have bees on their property or harvest honey, they do need approval if they want to sell it.

In mid-January, Brown completed the first of a four-step approval process by meeting with the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee. With dozens of signatures from nearby neighbors in tow, Brown’s pitch won the group’s support.


CHCA Board to vote

This Thursday, Brown’s request will move to the full board for a vote.

“Hopefully they’ll just forward a letter down to the Zoning Board [of Adjustment] with their support,” said Brown. “Then I can include that zoning variance on my application to the Department of Agriculture and then they’ll come and inspect my facilities and hopefully say its ok.”

Brown said it’ll likely be spring before honey under the Brown’s Apiary banner will hit the shelves.


More bees on the way

In the meantime, he said he’ll continue preparing for producing more honey by adding more hives.

Brown currently has a total of five hives that are divided between his home and a few more on Linden Road, a short tree-lined stretch in nearby Wyndmoor in Montgomery County.

“The reason I keep them there is because there’s Linden trees there in front of every house and Linden honey is very prized,” he said.

Brown, a building contractor, doesn’t own any property there, but has knocked on people’s doors over the years and asked to set-up a contained beehive amongst their Lindens. In exchange, he drops off jars of fresh, local honey when they’re ready.

“Some people acted like I was out of my mind and others were really interested in the idea,” said Brown of his unique door-to-door canvass.

Depending on the year, each hive covered with several thousand bees can produce 60 pounds of honey per year.


Local food movement

Brown said all that locally-produced honey leaves less of a carbon footprint and is more accommodating health-wise than the stuff mainstream manufacturers pump out.

“There’s no trucking it across the country or sending it overseas,” said Brown. “And there’s pretty good evidence that eating local honey really alleviates seasonal allergy symptoms because honey has the allergens in it.”


Other CHCA business

The CHCA Board will also vote Thursday on the future of a long-debated new web portal focusing on the Northwest neighborhood.

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