Harvesting Honey at the Fitzpatrick Farm - North Central Illinois

Fresh Thistle - Golden Rod Honey - From Fitzpatrick Farm, IL

Late in October, we were looking for a likely beekeeper to visit within an hour or two drive of home. Hopefully we would have a nice drive, visit the countryside and buy some fresh honey. I’d called Dan Fitzpatrick a few weeks earlier but wasn’t able to arrange anything at that time. This time Dan confirmed it would be fine to drop by. He couldn’t say exactly where he might be, but he would be close and we should be able to hook up.

Fields of Wind Generators

We drove west on Hwy 30 through Shabbona, passed by several ‘fields’ of giant wind generators, and were soon driving into his farm on a county road near Earlville. Surrounded by planted fields, wild fields and forest, it was a lovely day, and his wife, young son and Dad were outside enjoying it. Dan is part of a line of multi-generational farmers who trace their family roots back to his great-great-great grandfather, David Fitzpatrick, who originally settled the property in the 1800’s. The story of the Fitzpatick family runs alongside the farmland he still lives on.

Dan Inspecting A Beehive

We weren’t sure how big his beekeeping operation would be, and while it turned out to be more of a hobby than a business, Dan never has any problems finding willing customers for his honey. He had about eight hives positioned around his property. He would have more, but I think he was too busy.

When he isn’t tending the farm, Dan teaches environmental science at the local public school, as well as intro to agriculture, agricultural science, biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy. Not one to sit still, mentally or physically, Dan’s far-reaching interests are centered around nature and the outdoors. As a kid, his dream was to become a, “farmer scientist”—he is well on his way to accomplishing his goal.

While we were there, we tried wild persimmons, home-made cheese, inspected his apple tree grafting experiments, identified wild edible plants, wild mustard (Brassica species) and lambs quarters (Chenopodium album), which makes a seed similar to quinoa, and watched while he erected a deer platform on the edge of his wood land. All this and an excellent honey production tour.

Inspecting the hive for the late summer harvest and ensuring the bees have enough honey to last them through the winter.

Dan doesn’t use a backing as a foundation for the honey comb. Choosing a more natural and simpler method, he just embeds a line of popsicle sticks at the top of the frame for the bees to attach the honey comb. To harvest, simply crush the honey comb by hand into a sieve. In this case, through a single layer of cheese cloth for the ultimate in raw honey production.

After about a half hour of draining through the cheese cloth at the top of the bucket, open the gate, and fill our jar with a quart of incredible raw honey!

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