Some jobs are sweet. As the 2021 American Honey Queen, Jennifer Hinkel visits with people of all ages about beekeeping and honey.
Growing up on a Christmas tree and pumpkin farm, she learned at a young age that pollination is important. She learned about beekeeping from a middle school teacher and works alongside her mentor to tend to five hives.
“I knew I wanted to be the spokesperson for the honey and beekeeping industry after connecting with beekeepers and hearing why they are involved with bees,” Jennifer said. “Some do it because they enjoy being outdoors and working with bees. On the other hand, some beekeepers are following in the footsteps of earlier family generations.”
In her role as the American Honey Queen, she works to create awareness about the pollination impact bees have, shares stories from beekeepers across the country and sparks excitement for bees and honey in younger generations.
Jennifer gets many questions but the most common is about different honey varieties.
“There are more than 300 different varieties of honey available in the U.S.”, she explained. “Each variety of honey is unique because of the floral sources that the honeybees visit. As a general rule of thumb, a lighter color honey will typically have a delicate taste while a darker color honey will have a bolder flavor.”
She noted in Wisconsin we have unique varieties, such as cranberry honey because of the strong presence of the fruit found in the state.
Of all her visits, she enjoys classroom visits the most.
“I am fascinated to see faces light up when we talk about honeybees and how bees pollinate more than one-third of the food we eat,” Jennifer said. “When the students discover what food they would not have if it was not for honeybees, they are enthusiastic to learn more about the role of beekeepers.”
Jennifer also notes in her promotions that honey is much more than something you drizzle or add to your tea. It can be used as a sugar substitute in baking and cooking, a treatment for wounds and burns or as a natural moisturizer.
While travel has been limited due to COVID-19, she has attended many virtual events and one of her goals is to promote honey and bees in all 50 states. Recently, she traveled to Colorado to see a honey production plant.
When she is not wearing the tiara, Jennifer works full-time at the Wisconsin State Fair where she is the agriculture education and communication coordinator. In this role, she creates educational content and displays for fairgoers as well as exhibitor programming and messaging. When she isn’t working or representing the more than 200,000 beekeepers in the U.S., she spends her time working with her horses and volunteering with Racine 4-H. She also volunteers in the Racine County Fair Cream Puff stand run by the Racine County Farm Bureau.
Story and photos by Amy Eckelberg. Original story appeared in the June | July 2021 Rural Route
Leave a Reply