Follow the Honey gets Harvard Square buzzing

Follow the Honey, located in a brownstone beneath Veritas Tutors and alongside Arrow Dry Cleaners & Tailoring on Mass Ave in Harvard Square, is a specialty shop dedicated to all things bee. Not only do they provide raw honey from all 50 states and around the world, including local varieties on tap dispensed into ball jars and priced by the ounce (the current offering being Goldenrod from Warm Colors Apiary in Deerfield); they also sell honeymoon mead, beeswax candles and soaps, honey balms and elixirs, honey skin care, honey sweets, bee pollen, royal jelly, bee books, bee apparel and jewelry, and bee art.

"This is our most-treasured, pricey honey. We just got it in from South India," says founder Mary Canning, as she reaches for a jar of Agmark golden honey covered in white netting and affixed with a peach-colored bow. The farmers cooperative that manufactures it uses their honey production to underwrite education for disadvantaged women, she says. Follow the Honey partners with apiaries that resist pesticides, beekeepers who pollinate landscapes ravaged by war, groups that provide economic empowerment in developing countries, and bee farms that foster fair trade and human rights. "Our business model is transparency of source. We're currently sourcing from farmers cooperatives around the world," says Canning.

Honey with a conscience never tasted so sweet, and so diverse. A number of variables determine the color, taste and texture of the honey, such as when the flowers blossom and when the honey's harvested. "There's honey that's super dark like molasses, and then there's some that's white like the Hawaiian honey, which comes from a flower that grows out of volcanic ash," says Canning. "We may have 24 bottles of one type of honey, and that's all. It's totally unique and unpredictable." Their free daily in-store tastings are a sensual and educational experience, exhibiting honey's many dimensions. The boutique also has an observation hive that displays the bees at work, a swarm rescued from the corner of Tremont Street and Mass Ave threatened with extermination.

Before opening Follow the Honey, Canning worked as a documentary film producer for the investigative reporting program Frontline and the science program Nova. The name for the store was actually inspired by Deep Throat's famous line "follow the money" from the film All The President's Men, based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about their investigation of the Watergate scandal.

Canning discovered her interest in bees and honey after the deaths of her mother and first husband. "I was really blown away by bees. When you've been in that liminal place between life and death-which is present in all of our wisdom traditions, whatever religion or cultural practice-you wonder, what is this transition? Bees seem to me little gatekeepers," says Canning. "When you get into bees and honey, the sky is the limit. You could be super science about it, or you could be super metaphysical. Wherever you want to go with it, bees and honey have a story to tell."

Canning started out as an apprentice beekeeper, tending a family friend's hives for two years. She bottled raw honey that she sourced and sold it at farmers markets. Then she decided she wanted hives of her own, and she went to South India to observe a honey harvest there. Now she maintains four hives in Central Massachusetts, and she's hoping to get four more in the spring. Canning's husband, Ingo Winzer, is her business partner, and her daughter, Caneen, is the store's art director.

For Canning, Follow the Honey is much more than a boutique; it's a hive for communal learning. Throughout February, Follow the Honey is hosting a lecture series on Mondays from 6 to 7 pm, accompanied by honey-themed snacks and refreshments. The series launched January 23 with a lecture by archaeologist and Follow the Honey staff Justin Pargeter, who discussed sacred bee iconography in the ancient rock art of South Africa. Pargeter proposed the lecture series to Canning as a way to bring people to the store when it would otherwise be closed. "We wanted to show that we're about more than selling products. We're here to share knowledge and provide an outlet for information," says Pargeter. "I knew that bees were particularly potent symbols for these hunter gatherer populations and that rock art contained elements that were related to bees and hives."

"The lecture series is a way to tie in commerce with education and community, and it's fun," Canning says.

Polish up on your bee know-how with these upcoming lectures:

February 13: Dan Carr-The Stone Barns Center & Popanda Njuchi Palibe (No Bees, No Honey)
Dan Carr is part of the New York-based sustainable agriculture team at Stone Barns Center, caring for their farms animals, including the bees. In addition, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, he spent a lot of time working with small-scale bee-keeping enterprises. Join Dan Carr as he discusses his experience with the central African bee-keeping communities as well as Stone Barns Farm's sustainable agriculture and bee-keeping practices.

February 20: Elizabeth Gowing-Travels in Blood and Honey: Becoming a Beekeeper in Kosovo & Macedonian Honey Tasting
"I wanted to tell what I had learned about Kosovo, the war zone, but also about Kosovo, the land of sweet, hospitable beekeepers, the land of strong tastes, farmer prime ministers, and the lush garden of my Serbian language teacher-the land of honey." Join author, translator, educator, and beekeeper Elizabeth Gowing for a Skype video conference live from Kosovo.

February 27: Tony Lulek-On Buddhism and Bees
Tony Lulek's last name, Polish for "little beehive", provided the namesake for his farm Little Beehive Farm, where he and his wife tend to chickens, turkeys, and over a million bees. Join local beekeeper, educator, Little Beehive farmer and Buddhist Tony Lulek as he shares his creative and spiritual journey as a backyard beekeeper and maker of luscious lotions, potions, lip balms, and soaps.

Also keep a lookout for Follow the Honey's Bee School led by expert beekeepers and authors of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping, Laurie Herboldsheimer and Dean Stiglitz. Classes are $10 per session and open to beekeepers of all levels. Topics include what bees are, what bees do, what bees need, the role of the beekeeper, beekeeping gear and essentials, building equipment, working the bees, maintaining healthy hives, honey production, and more, with a focus on beekeeping without medications and artificial feeds. Herboldsheimer and Stiglitz have hives in the Fenway Victory Gardens, which they are expanding into an official teaching apiary this spring. When the outdoor beekeeping season begins, students who don't have their own bees will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience. For more information about the classes, visit

Follow the Honey, located at 1132 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, is open Monday-Thursday, 12-7 pm; Friday, 12-8 pm; Saturday, 11 am-8 pm; and Sunday, 11 am-6 pm. Call 617.945.7356 or visit

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Phlog Archives