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Photo of a hive at Hidden Valley Honey (David Calvert)

Many Nevadans are adjusting to the proliferation of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, stocking up on supplies and staying at home. The Nevada Independent is sharing their stories each day. 

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When Karen Foster and her husband, Chris, started homeschooling, they would have never predicted that a swarm of bees they studied with their children would lead to more than a decade of beekeeping and harvesting honey.

Foster said her family started studying the insects after a swarm serendipitously landed in their backyard one afternoon. The bees quickly became an interest that expanded to making beehives, hosting booths at various farmers' markets, founding Hidden Valley Honey farm in Reno and selling honey at local festivals.

"[Beekeeping] can be very relaxing as a hobby," she said with a laugh. "So be careful what you pursue, as it might take over your life."

Chris and Karen Foster pose for a photo in 2012 (Photo by David Calvert)

Because of COVID-19, the festivals Hidden Valley Honey would have participated in this season have been canceled, and Foster said she temporarily suspended online orders to accommodate the increased demand for honey in the stores the family supplies. 

"Apparently, honey is an apocalypse food, which we didn't realize. A lot of people are stocking up on it. And it took us a couple of weeks cause we had to bring twice as much to each store as normally we did," she said.

Foster's observation that honey is an "apocalypse food," stems from its medicinal properties as well as status as a natural preservative. Honey primarily consists of sugars and has a low water concentration, which gives it a long-term shelf-life — thousands of years old samples have been found in tombs such as Egypt's King Tutankhamun. Doomsday preppers consistently rank honey as one of the top items to have in the cupboard in case of a catastrophe.

After hearing about the coronavirus, Foster said her husband, who is a scientist, also bought suits, masks and gloves and implemented procedures to ensure that all of their products and deliveries are sterile. Pausing online sales has also helped them limit exposure to the coronavirus by reducing the need for trips to the post office and other locations.

Luckily, the virus has not threatened Hidden Valley's financial health, and Foster said she plans to reopen the website for orders in the next couple of weeks. She is primarily concerned with the overall health of the bees — a common issue for beekeepers.

"The main thing from year to year is always: how can we keep the bees healthy? And they have mites, and the mites carry viruses, so they have their own virus thing going on," she said. "This last year ... my husband spent a lot more time trying to stay right on top of keeping them healthy."

Chris Foster tends to a beehive (Photo by David Calvert)

Foster attributed Hidden Valley's financial stability to the local community and said she is grateful for the support local businesses are receiving during the pandemic. As for the future, she hopes that eventually, gatherings will be able to take place and they can host a booth at the honey festivals that organizers had to cancel this year.

"[Festivals are] a one-day event usually, with tens of thousands of people, so bigger than a usual farmer's market — and it's nice. I do miss being able to see people," Foster said. "I guess we'll have to wait ‘till next year."

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