Featured Member Story: Catskill Provisions
A Beekeeper’s Tale
Beekeeping began as a relaxing avocation for magazine executive Claire Marin, co-founder of Catskill Provisions, an artisan food company based in Long Eddy in Delaware County, NY. Catskill Provisions is a purveyor of 100 percent raw and local wildflower honey- and maple-based goods.
Claire for 15 years worked in publishing, most recently as Vice President, Publisher of Woman’s Day Brand Group.
“For four of those years, I enjoyed beekeeping as a hobby,” she says. “It really was my Zen … It helped me keep my sanity through the pressures of the corporate business world.”
She started out with only two hives. Claire loved observing how the bees managed the hive and all day-to-day operations.
“I started seeing that there are many habits we can incorporate into our own lives,” Claire says. “Their efficiency, collaboration and focus are only three of their many admirable qualities. I became fascinated with the honeybees’ work ethic and habits.”
The self-taught beekeeper also loved the fruits of that work ethic, a honey that is a sustainable byproduct of the Catskills landscape.
“Every time I harvested our honey, my friends and colleagues told me it was some of the best honey they ever tasted and that I should bottle it and sell it,” Claire says. “I heard this for four years before taking the big plunge.”
In 2010, after amassing a large number of hives at her weekend home and various other properties she and her partner, Cathy own in the Catskills, Claire said goodbye to publishing and created Catskill Provisions. “My goal is to bring attention to the great products available from the northwestern Catskills and bring revenue to the area,” Claire says.
The main farm is on 32 acres in Long Eddy, up on Hungry Hill.
“We have always had at least 10 working hives on the property in Long Eddy,” she says. “We also have two other hives on an adjoining property and several scattered in Delaware and Sullivan counties.”
The aim of Catskill Provisions is to conserve working landscapes, organize collaborations between different producers within the state, and support local food-based businesses.
“We provide sustainably produced food products and we connect chefs and gourmet markets with only good, sustainable, locally-sourced food,” Claire says. “We preserve farmland and have fought hard against anything that threatens it. We help farmers thrive by bringing them a consistent revenue stream.”
As Catskill Provisions has grown, Claire works with local farmers and other beekeepers to produce two seasonal wildflower honeys. The spring/ early summer honey tastes of clover, apple, cherry, basswood, almond, hazelnut and pear blossom. The late summer/early fall honey has notes of chestnut, maple, goldenrod, buckwheat, bamboo and asters.
Claire has also partnered with a distillery in the state to make her signature New York Honey Whiskey, a handcrafted 80 proof New York rye infused with the late summer/fall honey. It was awarded an 88 by “Whisky Advocate” managing editor Lew Bryson, author of “Tasting Whiskey”, and was chosen in the top five at WhiskyFest in 2014 out of 400 whiskeys shown there.
Catskill Provisions makes and sells the wildflower honeys, maple syrup – made from the sap of maple trees in Sullivan County, maple sugar spice rubs, organic pancake/waffle mix, chocolate honey truffles, honey whiskey truffles, ketchup, and a balsamic fig honey drizzle/marinade.
Claire said the transition from publishing to beekeeping was smooth, although it took some adjusting.
“Business is business, the difference is I now work with millions of gals, underneath me,” she says. “I am their facilitator, caretaker, and production manager.”
Her publishing background gave her the discipline, ability to work under deadlines, and knowledge of sales, marketing, promotions, and branding that crossed over to Catskill Provisions.
Claire regularly attends beekeeping meetings to share ideas. “Like farming, the outcome of a hive is affected by weather, terrain, and most importantly, the efficiency and strength of the queen you happen to have in that hive,” she says. “It’s always good to compare notes with others in the area and elsewhere in the country. We learn a lot from each other.”
The Catskill Provisions philosophy is “happy bees make better honey.” Honey is harvested slowly throughout the seasons so the stress on the bees is considerably lower than with other methods, Claire says.
But the philosophy has a double meaning.
“Happy people make better companies,” Claire says.