Kam and Summer Johnson moved to the rural area of New Jersey when their son, Zach, was around five years old. The family loved living there, but unfortunately Zach’s asthma was negatively affected by increased pollen exposure in the countryside.
The Johnsons have always been careful about the use of medicine and searched for some more natural treatments to help Zach with his allergic reactions. They came upon some convincing evidence that raw honey could be used to promote the body’s natural defense mechanisms. Because bees make honey from pollen, raw honey still contains small amounts of pollen. By exposing the body to small amounts of pollen, raw honey may help through a process called immunotherapy. Immunotherapy strategically exposes the body to whatever element causes the allergic reactions, and through that exposure may trigger increased tolerance.
Using raw honey did prove to reduce Zach’s reaction to pollen. While obtaining the honey from local beekeepers, the Johnsons became curious about raising bees and producing their own honey. The whole family became engrossed in learning about beekeeping. After months of research and at the urging of their beekeeping friends, the Johnsons took the plunge, bought their own hives and produced their own honey. Eventually realizing this could be a successful family business, they installed a commercial kitchen, and began selling their honey.
The Johnsons also learned that bees are an essential part of the agricultural cycle. It is estimated that over one-third of the food produced in the United States depends on pollination by bees, and millions of dollars are spent by farmers to rent hives for pollination. Honey bees contribute at least $24 billion annually to US agriculture, and 161.8 million pounds of raw honey was produced in 2016.
A New York Times article by Florence Fabricant on September 24, 2018 noted Zach and Zoe Sweet Bee Farm was now selling their honey at the Chelsea Market. The Johnsons add organic flavorings to some of their honey, offering such subtle flavors as lavender and matcha, as well as more common ones, such as raspberry and blueberry.
In 2020 their honey was featured on Oprah’s annual “favorite things” listing, and in September of 2021, they were accepted into “Target Takeoff,” a 5-week, product-focused accelerator program of Target, Inc.
From the beginning, the entire family was involved, and the business is named after the two oldest children, Zoe and Zach. The Johnsons believe it is important for the children to understand the mechanics of creating and running a business. Even though it is hard work, Kam and Summer want their children to learn first hand that it can be very rewarding to see your own business grow and flourish.