Mary Celley has always loved bees. Even at an early age, she was fascinated by the insects, recognizing their importance to the Earth, plants and the food chain. This interest continued to grow in college, where she earned a degree in entomology from UW, and began work at a "Bee Lab" in Madison. Not long after starting her job there, the lab was moved to Arizona and Mary was left with only her interest in bees and the will to do more. So she purchased two hives and began to sell honey at local farmers' markets.
While attending one of these markets, she was approached by a farmer from Brooklyn, Wis., who had a unique proposal. He was in need of bees to pollinate his apple orchard, and offered the use of a portion of his land in exchange for Mary moving her bees to where they could benefit his apple trees. Excited at the chance to put her bees to work, Mary readily accepted the proposal. The agreement worked out well for both Mary and the farmer, eventually prompting Mary to purchase some of the farmer's land, in order to expand her honey business.
Today she lives in a house situated on a beautiful oak savanna directly across from the apple orchard and overlooking her small farm in Brooklyn. She has over 100 beehives, along with about four acres of land on which she grows organic strawberries, raspberries, and sweet Ambrosia corn.
Celley has been selling her honey and produce at the Dane County Farmers' Market for 25 years. Her stand, The Bee Charmer, can be found on East Main Street, where it can be found from April through November. She also sets up shop at the Wednesday markets on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Bee Charmer's products are featured at several Madison restaurants, including L'Etoile, Harvest, and The Old Fashioned, where the honey is used to make Bees Knees Martinis.
The Daily Page: What is your most popular product?
Mary Celley: My Black Locust Honey, which is very delicate and hard to get. It's so good, I would consider it the "Champagne of Honey."
What's the one crop you wish you could grow, but can't?
Medical marijuana; I can't believe it hasn't been legalized yet. It would definitely help relieve my aches and pains after a long day.
What's your secret to great honey and produce?
I give thanks to the Earth. It's so simple, but it works.