Seminole Dining's sweet partnership with Full Moon Honey Farm
October 28, 2019
MONTICELLO, Fla. — Tony Hogg has a lot of mouths to feed at his farm in Jefferson County — an estimated 12 million hungry mouths craving nectar and pollen.
Nationally renowned beekeepers Tony and his wife Becky operate Full Moon Honey Farm about 30 miles east of Tallahassee. The rural apiary outside Monticello produces more than 12,000 pounds of pure raw honey a year. Some of the farm’s Wildflower variety goes to Florida State University, as part of Seminole Dining’s Adopt-a-Farm program.
Adopt-a-Farm puts a priority on creating partnerships with local growers to help advance FSU’s goal of serving meals with the freshest, healthiest ingredients. Full Moon Honey and locally sourced produce are sold on campus at Seminole Dining’s Fresh Market each month.
Seminole Dining uses hundreds of pounds of Full Moon Honey in recipes, including its famous Honey Fried Chicken, and diners reap the benefits in taste and health.
“Honey is a pure food containing all of the native pollens from plants, so there’s a strong benefit from having locally sourced food to help build up your immune system,” Hogg said. “We started beekeeping as a hobby with two hives about 20 years ago to help our daughter get over her fear of insects. Today, we manage about 300 beehives.”
The Hoggs successfully helped their daughter get over her fear of bees — today she’s a beekeeper — and they turned their hobby into a successful sustainable business that benefits the region’s entire ecosystem.
In addition to producing honey, Full Moon Honey Farm provides pollination services. The apiary leases bees to local growers looking for help with the pollination of crops, especially blueberries and watermelons. The Hoggs have even found demand for this service among cattle farmers, who depend on bees to pollinate plants that feed the herd.
Full Moon Apiary’s business slogan is “honey made by happy bees,” and the Hoggs find themselves having to work harder to keep their bees happy in today’s ever-changing environment. Increasing numbers of imported pests and pathogens present serious threats to the health of honeybees, Tony said, and that issue demands more of his time and attention.
“It takes a tremendous amount of work to manage bees because you’re focusing on the health of bee colonies,” Hogg said. “We’re always trying to move forward with new techniques to improve honeybee health, and that’s a big challenge. We cannot do it alone. We need people to understand the importance of honeybee health to a region’s entire ecosystem. It takes a lot of work to keep honeybees healthy, and everybody can contribute to that goal.”
Hogg is certainly used to hard work. He grew up on a farm in North Louisiana, where cotton, corn and soybean fields dot the landscape, and he later developed a career as a ship pilot at the Port of Jacksonville.
With his agricultural background, Hogg was interested in the challenge of cultivating a honeybee operation that he could share with his family. Even though he and his daughter lost those first two hives at the start, their curiosity and fascination with honeybees continued to grow and so did their honey farm.
Hogg has also become a valuable advocate for the apiary industry. He has served as president of the Florida State Beekeepers Association, campaigned on behalf of the group’s legislation at the state Capitol, and he teaches beekeeping classes at Tupelo’s Bakery & Café in downtown Monticello where Full Moon Honey is sold along with beeswax candles and moisturizing beeswax bars.
Working with honeybees has become a way of life for the Hoggs. And while they may pay a price for that lifestyle, “I get stung a lot, but it’s just part of the job,” Tony said he enjoys his relationship with honeybees at Full Moon Honey Farm.
“We have a good relationship with our bees, and I think honeybees are one of the most amazing creatures on the planet,” he said. “As a beekeeper, you never stop learning about bees. You need a passion for what you’re doing, and our family has a strong passion for beekeeping. We have a passion to promote changes that improve the apiary industry and the health of honeybees.”
With his classes, Hogg hopes to attract new beekeepers to the apiary industry, but that can be a challenge because a lot of people grow up with a fear of getting stung. That’s a natural human reaction, Hogg said, but once you get close to a beehive and see firsthand what’s happening inside, the intricate ecosystem can capture your curiosity.
“If you have any scientific or agricultural interest, I think it will fascinate you because you want to understand why that’s taking place,” he said. “We do need diversity for the future of the apiary industry. We need more beekeepers in more places. We need young people to become interested in beekeeping as a hobby or profession. It’s challenging, but it’s a good way of life.”