When most people think of South Dakota, I’d venture to guess they picture lots of cows and cornfields. Which isn’t exactly inaccurate. But did you know we rank as the #2 honey-producing state in the U.S.?
That fact doesn’t receive nearly as much buzz.
‘Tis true, though. And explains why the honeybee is our official state insect. Only North Dakota—a/k/a, the inferior Dakota—produces more honey than we do.
That kinda stings.
We happen to have the optimal combination of soil, topography, and climate that allows bees to thrive. Not to mention vast tracts of uncultivated land. In fact, the Dakotas are known as “America’s last bee refuge.”
I point all this out because I have been immersed in all things bees for two straight days. I’ve developed a sort of one-man hive mentality, if you will, while working on an article for CenturyCo.
While I learned all sorts of fascinating tidbits about the state’s honey industry, the one thing I couldn’t find was a beekeeper to chat up. The secret to brand journalism is to personalize your articles with a quote or two. There are plenty of apiaries (a fancy name for a collection of beehives) around the state, as one might expect based on our rallying cry (“We’re #2!”), but CenturyCo’s brand standards dictate we quote people who are members of our cooperative and live in our service territory. I scoured directories for hours, poring over listings from A to Bee, but kept coming up short.
That’s when inspiration struck. There might not be any honey producers that fit our strict criteria, but maybe the people who owned the companies were customers. So, on a hunch, I pulled up an online business profile in Hot Springs, one of the communities we serve in the southern Black Hills. Skipped past the legalese, found the name of the owner, punched that into our member database, and voila! Pay dirt, baby.
If internet sleuthing were an Olympic sport, I’d have earned a gold medal today.
I called him, we chatted, I got some great information. Thanked him profusely for his help. And then, at the end of the conversation, he said, “Please don’t use my name in your article.”
Head, meet desk.
Actually, that wasn’t too big of a deal. I wanted to give him a nifty alias—I was thinking of calling him Johnny Bee Goode—but my boss said I could just refer to him as “a Fall River County honey producer” and leave it at that. Which felt like a missed opportunity to me, but hey, I got what I needed and published the story before the deadline, thereby avoiding a sticky predicament.
I’m pretty proud of this story. I feel like I did a decent job making it both entertaining and informative. I included facts about the economics of the honey industry ($30 million annual revenue in South Dakota); the history of honey, from 8,000-year-old cave paintings in Spain to its reverence by ancient Egyptians; its nutritious benefits and designation as a superfood; its many medicinal benefits, from preventing heart attacks and strokes to healing wounds and suppressing coughs; and the plight of the honeybee, including steps we all can take to help save bees from extinction.
I was a good worker and even managed to sweeten the article with plenty of puns.
But I won’t drone on about this any more…