Jese Mehrkens makes the best granola. Hint: the secret’s in the honey. She should know. Her bees made it.
While Jese grew up surrounded by animals on her family’s hobby farm in Zumbro Falls— a goat, a cow and 30 cats — there were definitely no bees. Nor were there bees on her husband’s family dairy farm outside Lake City.
So, three years ago, with three small children at home, Jese decided to try her hand at, what she thought, would just be a hobby.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I have always had beekeeping in me,” she says. “When I was growing up, I found a big beehive down the gravel road from our farm. I was eight years old and I knew they were dangerous. But they were also magical.”
Fast-forward a couple decades, and Jese found herself driving to Wisconsin and filling her family’s truck with $200-worth of bee boxes and supplies she bought from someone on Craigslist. Then, she invited a local beekeeping expert out to her farm.
“She basically taught me the essentials of beekeeping. Once she left, I felt this overwhelming, contentment,” she says. “I knew, from that day on, that I would always have bees.”
After taking a few additional classes in Rochester, she decided she was ready for her own bees. For $95, she bought a two-pound package.
That first year, she harvested a pint of honey.
“I was so excited!” She smiles. The second year, she harvested seven gallons. And this year, she extracted a whopping 45 gallons of honey.
And while she is proud of the jars of amber-colored deliciousness, she’s even more excited about introducing beekeeping to her 10-year-old son, River. Each week during the summer, covered in protective mesh suits, gloves and veils, Jese and River head to the edge of their yard to monitor their hives.
“I wanted to teach him something real,” she tells me. “Like lots of 10-year-old boys, it’s all Minecraft and Pokemon and video games. This is something real…something I can pass down to him.”
After extracting and filtering the honey, Jese will let River sell some of it at the end of their driveway.
“Instead of lemonade, he’s selling honey,” she laughs. “He’s learning so much about entrepreneurship and money management — but he doesn’t even know it.”
She’s had no problem selling her product, which she adequately named Wild Honey. Thanks to word-of-mouth, she doesn’t advertise at all. Well, except for the custom lettering on her red Acadia, clamoring Local Raw Honey,
And while she’s not making six figures right now, she has goals for the future.
“My kids ask me, ‘Mom, what are you going to be when you grow up?’ She says. “I tell them, ‘When you guys leave, I’ll be a full-time beekeeper.”
Jese sells her honey for $15/pint. For more information, you can reach her at email@example.com.