As the words “organic” and “all natural” invade the savage world of modern business, it appears to take the eyes of a child to demonstrate true dedication to firm values and an environmental cause that extends beyond profit, fame and fortune.
Henry Miller started Henry’s Humdingers - a fully organic and sustainable business that hopes to make its raw honey creations as commonplace as ketchup on tables worldwide - when he was only 12-yearsold.
As Miller sat and conversed with a beekeeper on an airplane three years ago, he became so enthralled with the idea of bee farming and colony collapse disorder (CCD) that he asked his mother for a rather unusual gift for his birthday: a beehive.
“When we started, we had so much honey that we didn’t know what to do with it,” said Miller. (A full-depth beehive can yield over 70 pounds of honey upon extraction.) Miller and his family began experimenting with the addition of different spices to the raw honey and Henry’s Humdingers was born.
The company currently offers three flavors - Grumpy Grandpa, a spicy red pepper and garlic blend; Phoebe’s Fireball, a chipotle chili and cinnamon blend; and Naughty Nana, a spicy pepper and ginger blend. The products can be found on store shelves in 34 states and can be purchased online at www.storehenryssweetmiraclehoney.com.
Henry’s Humdingers has since cut down on its number of beehives and has taken on beekeeping as more of a hobby. “My son had to make a choice between just running the business and being a beekeeper,” said Denise Miller, Henry’s mother. “So he felt there was more to be gained by donating to honeybees through the business.”
Denise operates the business full time while Henry juggles high school and 20 hours of gymnastics practice per week, on top of his entrepreneurial venture. Her husband Tom is in charge of marketing and works another job as well. The company now buys raw honey from other local business and despite the fact that it has yet to turn a profit, still donates to the preservation of honeybees.
So why should anyone care about CCD and honeybees? According to the Agricultural Research Service, more than $15 billion of increased crop value per year depends on bee pollination. Specialty crops such as almonds, berries and various other fruits and vegetables that are integral to our diet depend on pollination to survive. In 2006, beekeepers began reporting unusually high losses in their hives between 30 and 90 percent. In the United States, losses have been at 33 percent on average from 2006 to 2011.
Nutritional stress, pesticides and pathogens such as mites, viruses and fungi are all factors that most scientists agree are causing CCD. Herbicides destroy the habitats that provide necessary nutrition for honeybee colonies. Neonicotinoids is a class of pesticides originally used for its reduced toxicity to honeybees. However, the combination of this class with the use of fungicides has a synergistic effect and increases bee toxicity over 1,000 fold, according to the Pesticide Action Network, North America (Panna). Neonicotinoids are used on over 142 million acres of farmland in the U.S. and accumulate in the soil, producing long-lasting environmental effects.
A lack of nutritional diversity due to monoculture has also been linked to CCD and includes environmental stressors such as a lack of diversity in pollen and nectar and the singular availability of pollen and nectar with low nutritional value. Pathogens such as Nosema (a gut fungi) and parasites like the Varroa mite are also factors.
Henry’s Humdingers is committed to funding bee research and even links to the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees on its website. According to Henry, his heart is still invested in the company 100 percent and he hopes that all of his work will pay off as he and his family continues to sacrifice and make headway in an economy that does not make it easy to succeed as a small business. “The ride has been great,” said Henry.
“The business world can be cutthroat and some people really don’t expect much of me because I’m a kid. But the look on people’s faces when I surprise them with what me and my family have done is really rewarding.”