A Secret Recipe, Sweets, and An All American Love Story
Chuck and Mary Cornett, your honey farmers, are two of Dinuba’s most upstanding citizens. They have an award to prove it. (The Cornetts were jointly awarded the Senior Citizens of the Year Award last year–but you’re not going to hear about it from them.)
About six years ago, on something of a whim, Mary and Chuck got into the honey business. After retirement, they had taken up manning a farmer’s market booth together were really enjoying it. Why not throw honey into the mix? After all, they were already taking care of goats, sheep, chickens, cats, and two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs.
You have to start out with a few basic things when you’re doing honey: bee colony boxes, bees, a bee keeper, and the gumption to bottle pounds and pounds of what could potentially be a big sticky mess.
“We lost most of a fifty-five gallon drum once,” Mary remembered. “The spigot didn’t close well on the barrel. When we came back in the morning, honey was all over the floor.”
Honey is one of the gems of the local foods movement. It takes on the flavor of a place, picking up nutrients from the ground that have been translated into the blossoms of the trees and wildflowers. The Cornett’s set their bees out in several locations, and in the end bring in batches of orange blossom, stone fruit, wildflower, sage, and alfalfa honey. The taste and color are specific to each type.
Standing behind the table display loaded with bottles and jars of various shades of golden amber liquid at a North Fresno farmer’s market, Mary commented that a number of her customers seek her out because they appreciate the health benefits of local honey. “I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s helped them a lot,” she said.
All the year’s honey is made in about two weeks time, bloom time. No wonder bees are so busy. And with all the work that goes into harvesting, processing and selling the honey from there, it’s no wonder the Cornett’s are busy!
Chuck and Mary help bottle the honey every year. The condensed nectar is removed from the hives by centrifuge, then goes from there to fifty-five gallon drums, to five pound plastic buckets, to bottles, jars, and honey bears. Some of it goes to make products like creamed honey, honey straws, and honey soap.
And talk about sweet, Chuck and Mary have an all American love story. They knew each other as children, dated each others friends in high school and finally got together after college. In their younger years in Dinuba, they’d “go dragging on Main.” Meaning, they’d drive up and down main street, sit a while in the Ford lot, talk, and then do it again.
Mary was a third grade teacher in Fresno County for forty years. She still goes back to help tutor once a week. Chuck was the parts and services manager at the local Ford Motor Company for thirty-three years. The fact that Chuck and Mary have been in the Central Valley their whole lives, and have a taste for life here over all those years endows their honey with a little extra kiss of sweetness and authentic valley-ness.
As far as enjoying the fruits of the labor, Mary has honey in her tea everyday and says the grandkids love peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Chuck prefers the darker stone fruit honey, a.k.a. Valley honey. “It stays better on meat,” he said. Chuck uses it to make a killer homemade barbecue sauce. He’d share the recipe with you, except it’s the intuitive kind of recipe that keeps to itself and changes with time.
The Cornett’s honey is available seasonally as a add-on to your AHO subscription box.