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Busy Like the Bee: The employees of 1,500 beehives report to Jeff Walls.


The sweet story of Jeff Walls Bees & Honey in Soquel.

By Amber Turpin

Backyard Entrepreneurs
HONEY FLOW When Jeff Walls was 13 years old, his biggest dream was to own a motorcycle. He began a personal fundraising campaign by working with his dad in the family's Soquel beekeeping business, started by the elder Mr. Walls in 1963. Jeff eventually got the motorcycle (even though his dad had forbidden it) and still rides today. More importantly, he continued beekeeping as well. Today Jeff Walls Bees & Honey runs about 1,500 hives scattered around Soquel, primarily up Old San Jose Road. The original operating honey house is across the street from Jeff and his wife April's home; down the road is one of their neighbors and main clients, Bargetto Winery.

"They do what we would call 'ruining the honey,'" jokes April, referring to the cooking and fermenting process that results in the winery's popular mead. Two local chai producers, Masala and Sun Chai, also use the Walls' honey; so do a few bakeries. April uses the various strains of honey for different purposes: clover in peanut butter and banana sandwiches, orange blossom honey in homemade baklava ("It's like eating a flower!") and so on. Unfortunately, the sweet joys of honey are shadowed by today's massive bee deaths and mite epidemic, which is why a portion of the Walls' profits are turned over to the National Honey Board for research and experimentation. You can reach Jeff and April at 831.476.3827.

READ UP Cookbooks have many virtues besides just offering a map to certain recipes. Enticing photographs, interesting stories and compelling authors make this variety of literature an easy one to covet. Anyone who enjoys food most likely has a few shelves full of cookbooks, even if they seldom follow recipes when actually cooking. At the Freedom Rose House Bed & Breakfast in Watsonville sits an example of what can happen over a lifetime of cookbook collecting. Jean Fortenbery has compiled her It's All About Food culinary library of more than 12,000 food-related publications for the past 25 years. Anyone is welcome to visit, peruse and even use the on-site copy machine (all for a small fee). Learn more at or 866.349.ROSE. Jean has also made herself a resource for cooking advice and recipe searches by email at [email protected]

LUNCH TIME A few weeks ago I wandered into Staff of Life for some simple groceries and was met by a jaw-dropping, expansive new layout. No more clumsy three-point shopping cart turns by the cheese section or collisions at the salad bar. Speaking of the salad bar, there is now a slick and shiny International Hot Bar that shares space with the updated and streamlined (and mostly organic) salad and soup offerings. Broken into Asian, Indian, Latin, Mediterranean and Comfort Food categories, these hot dishes bring an exciting, quick option to an often-tired weekday lunch. After scooping up some rich saag paneer, a shopper can spin 180 degrees and pick out some chicken tikka masala or any other protein to match from the well-stocked deli case. Visit this gem early for the widest selection, as the hot bar goes fast. There is also a new "Living Raw Foods" case (the only one I've ever encountered) that features wholesale items from Café La Vie, cultured sauerkrauts, nut butters, various Kombucha and an assortment of raw cookies and crackers.

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