Featured Ads

Beekeeper’s honey benefits Jewish community

Eric Korsten simply loves bees.

Korsten has been interested in bees since childhood. He was able to take that interest to a new level when in 2002, as a surprise, his brother, Gerald, enrolled him in a beekeeper class. With these new insights, Korsten was able to turn his intuitive love for honey bees into an almost full-time hobby.

Today Korsten shares his beekeeping skills with the Jewish community. He helped place a beehive at the Mitzvah Garden KC at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, which he and other volunteers tend, and at Chabad House Center, where besides tending to the bees he gives demonstrations to the preschool children. The hives at Chabad House provide product for Yachad-The Kosher Food Pantry, the only place where the public might receive some of Korsten’s honey.

Korsten immigrated to the United States with his parents, Karla Korsten and the late Henry Korsten after World War II and moved to Kansas City in 1957. His parents and extended family worked in the garment industry and he followed in their footsteps — once working for Brand and Puritz and Chocolate Soup. After he retired, he put away the fabrics, needles and threads and purchased his first batch of beekeeping supplies, which included a large package of 12,000 bees that weighed more than 2 pounds. The initial investment to build the beehives, which are actually wooden boxes, and purchase the bees is about $300.

A package of 12,000 bees, Korsten explained, usually grows into a community of as many as 50,000. Each hive is a family with its own queen. A first-year hive might produce just a “shmear” of honey. As much as 250 pounds of honey can be extracted from a mature hive. Once the honey is extracted, the beeswax is spun, filtered and screened, before it can be jarred and ready for distribution.

Honey is the only food that never spoils, and Korsten said it can be eaten raw straight from the hive. A honey-producing bee usually only lives six weeks before it “works itself to death.”

Korstein said this hot summer has been disastrous for his bees. Bees like to eat flowers and because many died in the heat, he had to feed all those bees sugar water instead. That, in turn, keeps them from eating their product.

Korsten’s wife, Carol, (the daughter of the late Dr. Walter P and Margaret Jacob) helps process the honey but stays far away from the bees because she is violently allergic to them.

“So much so,” Korsten says “she swells up in a very unforgettable state.” In spite of her allergy, Carol helps produce the little jars of wonderful honey.

Korsten has been stung many times. But he explained, “The ‘sting’ in my body acts as a shot of cortisone … why I do not know, but it is part of my DNA and a plus for a beekeeper.”

Korsten, in keeping with his Jewish values, does not, and will not, sell the product. He gives it away and the beneficiaries distribute it as they see fit. His pleasure is knowing others benefit from the “work” of his bees.

While he’s retired from the garment industry, he now works driving a bus for the Blue Valley School District. Besides donating his honey to Jewish concerns, he and his wife serve as volunteers for the Simcha Box program coordinated by Yachad and Jewish Family Services and participate in and support Chabad programs.