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Carmen Weiland is noticeably giddy, anticipating the arrival of one of the world’s rarest types of honey—the organic Ohi’a-Lehua Blossom honey sourced from a flower found only in Hawaii.
“It’s number three on the list of honeys to try before you die,” she says with the intensity of a sommelier pouring a rare Barolo. Weiland is the estate manager and resident beekeeper at Knapp Ranch, a sprawling 300-acre slice of Eden tucked between aspen-loaded hills near Edwards.
“I found my new passion at age 53,” she says, pausing for a breath outside of the ranch’s wooden Slovenian bee houses and commenting on the lingering musty scent of a familiar visitor—the native black bear has yet to finagle its way past the electric fencing to scavenge the honey.
In August, Knapp Harvest marketplace opened in downtown Eagle Ranch’s new village shops. The culinary boutique showcases products from the Vail and Roaring Fork valleys, including Knapp Ranch and partner farm Osage Gardens organic produce, cutting boards, and kitchen utensils produced from beetle-kill forests on Knapp Ranch, and honey, lip balm and hand cream made from Knapp Ranch bees. Knapp’s Nectar products are a hit—with shoppers scooping up 24 pounds of specialty Trappers Lake Fireweed honey in just three days.
The Edwards ranch hosts 18 hives each containing colonies of 50,000 to 80,000 bees. A bug hotel houses beneficial insects that will take over the permaculture garden. Surrounding fields and hoop houses are packed with leafy greens, squash blossoms, beets, carrots, potatoes, and microgreens that will be distributed to regional restaurants.
Architectural Digest and Bon Appetit publishers Bud and the late Betsy Knapp purchased the Sawatch Range land in 1995, fulfilling a lifelong desire to grow their own food and build a home and collection of cabins around history, culture, and art. The sustainable working farm is a contributor to climate science studies, a lab for horticultural experimentation, a United States Forest Service partner, and an environmental studies educational center.
Weiland’s bees are the hardest workers on the ranch, making trips back and forth from flowers to the hive sun up to sundown. The beekeeper has been stung more times than she can count. And she’s grateful. The anti-inflammatory medicinal properties in the venom are incredible, she says.
A honey sommelier in training, Weiland is halfway through her master beekeepers course, on track to graduate in October 2021. Her uncle was a beekeeper in the Alps in Germany and Weiland jumped at the opportunity to learn how to take care of the bees at Knapp Ranch. The ranch sent Weiland to Slovenia, one of the top beekeeping countries in the world, to study apitherapy.
“The hive has a lot of essential oils and propolis,” says Weiland. “The work in Slovenia opened my eyes. There is a whole world of healing through the beehive that America hasn’t touched yet. I love my bees. I want the U.S. to love them as much as Europe.”
Knapp Harvest marketplace is open Wednesday–Friday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; 717 Sylvan Lake Rd., Eagle Ranch; 970-470-4961