Mike on America

U.S. Honey Producers: The Sweet Taste Of Business

You're standing in the middle of 750,000 honey bees--give or take a couple of thousand. And they are hard at work. Making money for Wisconsin Natural Acres Honey Inc. by making honey--60,000 plus pounds of it.

Doug Shultz has been working with migratory honey bees since he was 17. Over 20 years later, he's ended up in the 'high end', 'gourmet' honey business.

It's the 'sweet' spot for U.S. honey producers--and in fact is the best place for most American manufacturing and small to middle sized businesses to bee. Kidding. But it really is, and it's all the 'buzz' on Main Street USA.

What can American business do that foreign competition can't? Guarantee quality, 'chain of evidence' production, and be quick to market. Shultz knows because he used to be in the 'commodity' honey business. Most of what you buy in your local supermarket is 'blended' honey. Some U.S., some Canadian, some Mexican, perhaps a little or allot of Chinese. Blended--not pure. It's cheap. But Shultz wanted more. For himself, and for his bees.

He's as gentle with these little critters as someone 200 times their size can bee--(there I go again)--even when one flies up his nose--literally--during one of our interview sessions. That one had to go. Adios baby. But the other 749,999 that were in those hives near the soy bean field outside Chilton Wisconsin, about 30 miles from Green Bay, were all treated with kid gloves. No chemicals. No queen exclusion. No anything that isn't natural and pure. Not a bad target market in these the days of bad dog food, tainted toothpaste and 'combination' food suppliers--a little from here, a little from there.

We've talked about this before--by the end of 2008 the United States, your United States, the 'bread basket' of the world--won't be. We'll be a net importer of food stuffs. Scary thought. Where do those grapefruit in your local market come from? Probably not Florida or California.

The one thing you'd think we'd want to control is our food. Dough Shultz does. He controls the food his bees 'eat', or pollinate, and he controls the quality of his honey.

It's an interesting place to be--surrounded by a quarter of million bees---no place safer.

That's the 'buzz' from Main Street USA.

Back on the road next week.

Ouch! Make that 749,998 bees.

Questions?  Comments?  mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com