Family honey grows from door sales to markets

PEARL, Miss. (AP) — When it comes to local honey, a spoonful a day keeps the sniffles away. Or at least that’s what allergy sufferers around Rankin County say.

Across the state, wildflower honey flies off the shelves of local markets and co-ops. The bulk of this honey is made in Rankin County by Pennington Farms in Pearl.

The Pennington family started harvesting honey in 1964 when owner John Pennington’s allergy doctor suggested he try local honey. When he could not find any, he decided to make his own.

According to his son, Jim Pennington, it all started as a hobby.

“He bought (the hive) from Sears and Roebuck in the 1960s and they shipped it in the mail,” he said of his father’s first bee hive.

Eventually, neighbors started coming to the Pennington’s home to buy jars of this unpasteurized, unfiltered, raw honey.

“Door sales increased. He would find local farmers markets and fruit stands that would sell them, and it grew from there,” he said.

Pennington described the business as a family hobby. He said his dad would handle the production of the honey while his mom, Flora, would package it and handle sales.

Many farmers markets and shops across the state carry Pennington honey. The honey is even sold at an unlikely place, a hardware store.

Revell Hardware on U.S. Highway 80 in Pearl sells jars of honey right next to everyday, basic hardware.

“Mr. Pennington came in one day and asked if we would sell it,” manager Scott Copeland said. “We put it in and tried and have been selling it for about five years.”

Copeland said they sell a lot of honey.

“Lots of people take it like a medicine for their allergies,” he said.

Copeland, however, buys the honey for different reasons.

“It’s good honey . on hot biscuits, that’s how I like it.”

County Meat Packers in Florence also sells Pennington honey. Lisa Dunn of Rankin County said they carry the honey because Pennington is locally owned and so are they.

“We always try to buy Mississippi-made stuff because we like to support people from our own state. We want to support people from our community because we would want people to support us,” she said.

Old Fannin Road Farmers Market owner Cindy Hunt keeps her shelves stocked with the honey.

“We only keep the things that we do sell a lot of,” she said.

With the buzz surrounding the medical benefits of honey, one has to wonder if there is any truth to the chatter.

Dr. Joshua Phillips of Mississippi Asthma and Allergy Clinic in Jackson grew up in Rankin County.

He said he’s a skeptic but does not discourage the practice.

“I hear it all the time. I’ve had patients tell me that it helps their symptoms. If a patient is doing something that’s working, I won’t tell them to stop,” Phillips said.

The theory is when allergy sufferers ingest the pollen found in honey, they become immune over time and no longer have the allergic response to the pollen.

Phillips said that theory is flawed.

“I can’t make that theory make sense,” he said. “Bees get pollen from flowering plants. But the pollen that causes the allergies most people suffer from is airborne pollen from oak trees, grasses and ragweeds. Bees don’t pick up any of that pollen.”

He said although he does not see how it works, “this is never going to hurt them, but it might help.”

Fact or fiction, one thing for sure is that the local honey business is not going anywhere.

Jim Pennington took over the family business in 2010 and said although “it’s hard getting used to the bees, in the heat with all of that equipment on,” he has no plans to stop making honey on his family farm.

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com

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