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HYATTSVILLE — The sixth season of the Maryland Public Television (MPT) show Maryland Farm & Harvest featured four Maryland farms, including Hope Honey Farm in Prince George’s County, during its premiere on Nov. 13.
In 2014, Maggie Mills started the honey bee farm located in Hyattsville. On Hope Honey Farm, she breeds honey bees as well as sells Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) honey as well as soaps, lip balms, body scrubs, body butter, CNG beeswax and a limited number of nucleus colonies.
The only CNG apiary in the Washington, D.C. Beltway area, Hope Honey Farm focuses on the sustainability of beekeeping and uses Certified Naturally Grown practices when it comes to breeding the bees and making products.
The producers of Maryland Farm & Harvest reached out to Mills to be on the show last year, but the episode featuring honey harvesting did not fit what she was equipped to do.
However, they were interested in the way she raised queen bees, and she was asked to be on the show for its sixth season.
“It was really exciting to be on the show,” Mills said. “It’s incredibly cool to see my business on TV. It’s sort of surreal.”
Mills started beekeeping in 2012 and has raised 40 colonies where half are production colonies, and half are nucleus colonies.
In her second year of beekeeping, she started selling products such as her soaps and body butter as a way to further publicize her platform.
“It’s still my hobby, and I have a full-time day job in the city that supports my habit so to speak,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun. I find the community is very supportive and interested in beekeeping.”
Maryland Farm & Harvest has featured hundreds of farms from every county in Maryland throughout its six seasons to show the diversity of Maryland agriculture from rural to urban farming.
“The goal of the show is to reconnect people with where their food comes from,” said Senior Producer and Director Sarah Sampson.
“It used to be not too many generations ago that everybody has some sort of connection to agriculture whether they had a relative who owned a farm or they grew up on a farm themselves, or they had a friend who grew up on a farm.
Now you have fewer and fewer farmers providing food for more and more people, and the result is there is a disconnect between people and where their food comes from.”
Sampson said she chose Mills’ farm for the show because of the importance of bees to agriculture as well as Mills’ unique take it took on beekeeping.
Instead of just showing the bees and how they make honey, her episode showed her process of bee breeding, the process of grafting the queen to create a new colony getting the hives to accept the queen and then selling the colony.
“It’s a different take on the typical bee story,” Sampson said. “We actually did a whole segment last year where we talked about the process of making honey and the state of Maryland actually has a dog that sniffs different hives for bee diseases, what they used to call colony collapse disorder but is now sort of an umbrella term for different things.
We had done all that kind of thing before, but what Maggie does is really unique in that she grafts queens and sells those colonies to up and coming beekeepers.”
The season premiere featured three other farms and agricultural establishments.
One was Congressional Seafood, seafood processor and distributor specializing in restaurants, caterers, country clubs and high-end retailers, in Jessup to explain how seafood is processed as well as how the invasive species the blue catfish affects the Chesapeake Bay.
Another segment featured farmer DJ Burrier of Pleasantview Farm in Frederick County to give a glimpse into the world of tractor pulling made popular in the 1950s and 60s. Cameras followed Burrier to the Libertytown Volunteer Fire Department’s bi-annual tractor pull where he was a contestant.
Finally, Al Spoler, host of The Local Buy segment of the show visited Leaning Pine Farm in Allegany County. During this segment, farmers Amanda Paul and Sam White explained the challenges of raising a herd of cattle in Western Maryland on the 177-acre grass-fed beef operation in Mount Savage.
In addition to Hope Honey Farm, Sampson said that Maryland Farm & Harvest will feature five other Prince George’s County farms this season showing a wide variety of farming experiences.
The show will visit Forested, LLC in Bowie where they will show how people can pick, cook and eat their own food at the farm, Als Nest Farm which harvests pea shoots and Robin Hill Farm and Vineyards in Brandywine.
Although slightly nerve-wracking, Mills said being on the show was a lot of fun, and it was incredibly cool to work with such an exceptional crew.
More than anything, the message that she wanted to send through her segment is that bees are not as scary as people make them out to be but are instead gentle and fascinating creatures.
“People’s first question to me is (do you) always get stung,” she said. “I really hope in watching the segment, people were able to see that honey bees are relatively docile.
“I hope people took notice of the fact that I mostly work bees in a t-shirt and I don’t have anything on my arms, and I hope it kind of downplayed this bad reputation honey bees have gotten for being mean. They really aren’t, they are this incredibly fascinating creature that works together as one unit to make it all happen in the hive.”
Watch Maryland Farm & Harvest on MPT every Tuesday at 7 p.m. Episodes are rebroadcast on Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. and on MPT2 on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. The season six series premiere with Hope Honey Farm can be watched here.