Ed Johnson’s Honey Farm

October 8, 2010

Ed Johnson tells me that he’s been making honey for pretty much all of his 84 years. Even as a child if he was too young to collect the honey, he was never too young to eat it, as most kids will agree. In 1918 his grandfather bought a farm in Goodlettsville and started making honey. “Everybody back in the old days had bees,” Ed tells me. “If you wanted something to eat, you had to grow it.” Now, four generations later, Ed and his family still live on the farm and maintain over 450 hives. And since 1918, it has stayed a tight knit family business with Ed’s son Robert and daughter Paula involved in the day-to-day operations.

You can see the past when you’re out at Ed’s farm, in many ways it looks much like I imagine it did when his grandfather first moved there. There is an old house where they store and bottle the honey, the walls are lined with cases of bee pollen and honey comb, the ceilings are dark and low, the floors creak slightly as you walk and the air lingers with the smell of sweet honey mingled with aged wood. Outside, on the other side of the wall, there are a couple shelves of honey and a simple money box for those who are drawn in by the hand painted Honey For Sale sign out on the road, an honors system setup that has been there for decades.

About 25 years ago things changed nearly overnight when people started becoming aware of the health benefits of honey. “Honey should be sold at the drugstore,” Ed tells me jokingly, with a laugh, “then we’d make some money off of it.” Not only is honey good for your immune system, digestion and inflammation, but many people swear by eating a little bit of local Wildflower Honey each day to help ward off allergies. And Ed’s, with its dark earthy sweetness, is some of the very best. The Clover Honey is the sweetest and lightest of the three, and the Sourwood, according to Chris Grissom at Alfresco Pasta who uses it for his Honey Sage Butter, “is the best Sourwood honey I have ever tasted.”

If you stop by their booth at the East or West Nashville Farmers Markets, Ed’s longtime friend Thurman will gladly give you a taste of their honeys and tell you anything you’d like to know about the process. He knows a lot and like anyone you talk to involved in their business, they are incredibly passionate about all things bee-related. “We gotta feed the people so we ain’t never too busy to wait on a customer,” Ed tells me.

Along with their honey, they also sell everything you’d need to start up your own beekeeping operation, from the Queens to the Drones to the hives handmade by Robert. If you’re even slightly interested in beekeeping, a little chat with Robert will make you ready to sign up in no time. They also raise chickens and sell farm fresh eggs, but for now you can only get those if you stop by their farm and put the money into the money box. Just like people did, back in the old days.

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