Many have heard about the benefits of raw honey—it's medicinal qualities, health benefits and distinct yet complex flavor. Beekeeping, a complex process in and of itself, is an extremely rewarding hobby for many around the world.
Liana Honda is the owner of Hakamanu Honey, a honey and flower company based in Hāmākua, Hawai‘i. Alumni who joined us for our 2021 Virtual Life Member Event had the opportunity to sample some of Liana's delicious honey as part of our commemorative Life Member favor box.
We asked Liana about the inspiration behind her business, what she loves most about beekeeping and how her UH education has helped her along the way.
What inspired you to start your own business?
After a few years of beekeeping as a hobby, a few failures along the way and many expenses to boot, my husband gently encouraged me to turn my passion/hobby into a small business. It may have been his attempt to have me at least make up for expenses instead of giving my honey freely to family and friends, a habit that continues to this day.
What do you love most about your work?
There are so many aspects about beekeeping that I love. But now I am having to lean on the help of friends to get the business aspects down, like artwork, label making, packaging, sending, recordkeeping (which is a big challenge for me). I love that my friends all support my efforts and encourage me and swear that my honey is the best they’ve ever tasted. What I love most: the many benefits we, as humans, get from honeybees: helping our plants, both native and introduced, to flourish, all the medicinal qualities that is in raw honey that can heal many ailments, and the delicious sweet taste it adds to all our foods (or how a spoonful puts a smile on people's faces).
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own business?
I no longer cringe as much when I have to purchase equipment or build out areas on my property to support more hives. Expanding the number of hives doesnt necessarily mean I will have more honey to sell, more importantly, it means that there will be more pollinators in my area to support plants propogation! But fact of the matter is, I do get to harvest honey from the hives more often now than ever and that means more to sell (and more to give away!).
The most challenging?
Beekeeping today is not the same as it was 20 years ago. There are varroa mites and small hive beetles that can literally bring a hive down to its knees, so to speak. So many things can go wrong – death of a queen, bad weather, wax moth invasion. This list goes on and on. Pesticides and herbicides are destructive. My granddaughter ended up painting signs for us to put on the front boundaries of our property that say “PLEASE NO SPRAY” to let the county know that we dont want them to spray our roadside “weeds” to kill them. Those pesticides can kill our beneficial insects. And you know what? Since we have had the sign go up, I notice native ferns growing and ʻōhiʻa sprouting.
How has your UH education helped you in your career?
Several years ago I attended an educational conference (I have a M.Ed. from UH Hilo) and was fortunate to listen to a presentation by Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot. She authored a book entitled, The Third Chapter, Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50. I think so many of us older (and wiser) employees may not think much about a career change or pursuing our passions. And we often put off retirement fearing that there is nothing to do after putting in so many dedicated years to our employer. This author left an impression on me – I purchased the book and started looking forward to pursuing other interests. I was an educator for over 36 years before I entered the health care field. And now I am forging a new path (more like an overgrown hiking trail) in beekeeping that is leading to a new interest in gardening and growing cut flowers for florists (and to give away!).
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your day-to-day operations?
I do have a full time job in healthcare but when the pandemic hit, I was told to work from home as much as possible. That freed up time in my day that I would normally spend traveling to and from work (and no eating out, shopping, etc.). I was able to add more hives to my apiary and it allowed me the time and space to educate myself on the art of beekeeping. I was even given the opportunity to share my passion of beekeeping and “products of the hive” through a couple of Zoom workshops.