It all started at Hackley School, Tarrytown, Class of ’97, with the friendship between James Pratt and Carlo Esannason. James made a career as a construction manager in New York City, and Carlo went into finance, but the two remained fast friends.
Then, in 2016, something changed.
“I started feeling unhappy with the universe,” James said. “I’d always been interested in the environment, but I had a different energy in me. I saw this meme, about how, if bees went extinct, humankind would have four years left to live. The threat to the bees seemed to me symptomatic of the overall problem.”
James saw an ad for a Flow Hive kit, for honey making. “I bought it, I built it, I got the bees in the mail. And I was hooked. My first season with the bees was 2017, and then I roped in Carlo.”
The result is Fly Honey Farm, a small–scale sustainable apiary seeking to “create honey, increase honey bee population, and create actionable change in local communities,” as their website puts it.
Many of Carlo’s and James’s friends from freshman year helped. “Our logo was created by a classmate who’s now an artist,” James said. Their legal advice, photography and videography all came from the same Hackley friendships.
Based in Tarrytown, the business locates hives on private property on either side of the Hudson and produces a pure, organic honey derived from healthy, well-tended bees. “Treatment of the bees is so important,” Carlo explains. “Commercial bee-keeping is a vicious industry. We’ve intentionally kept things small because it’s not about the honey, it’s about the bees.
“The business has taken off, doubling every year, but it’s also become a charitable, educational and environmental snowball. Not only are Fly Honey’s products sold online and at the TaSH (Tarrytown Sleepy Hollow) Farmers Market; the honey is also donated to food pantries and schools.
That led to a certification by the National Honey Board, and that led to their status as the only honey vendor approved to sell to schools in New York State.
“The schools make smoothies with it, and use it as a sugar substitute,” James said. “But it also gets the kids involved. Learning about the product leads to demystification and educational opportunities. Next up we want to locate hives on school property, to offer a sustainable food model.” They’ve also used their website and sales to fund donations to AFTD – Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration — a charity close to their hearts. “We didn’t request or press our customers to donate, we just mentioned the cause on the site, changed the branding, and offered the opportunity to give back.”
Producing a high quality product, educating the consumer, fostering other businesses and donating to charities – it seems like there isn’t, currently, a term for a business which prioritizes philanthropy alongside profit. Carlo and James call it “Doing the right thing. Being the change you want to see in the world.” That and a spoonful of amazing honey? Pretty sweet.