When he was ten, Henry’s family traded in sunny, smoggy LA for a wet, verdant farm in western Washington. They started raising goats, sheep, cows, ducks, geese, chickens, pigs, oxen, and a donkey, so Henry quickly learned a thing or two about agriculture.
Then came an eventful flight that would play a major role in shaping 12-year-old Henry’s future. “I sat next to a beekeeper on an airplane,” Henry said. “My mom got up to go to the restroom, and I started talking to him. I told him about our farm and he told me about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). I couldn't believe it. He said that if the bees died off, humans would only have seven years to live. That freaked me out! After that I had to do something, so I got my first hive and started selling honey to donate to bee research.”
The beekeeper helped Henry understand the vital role bees play in pollinating plants. As Henry says, “The bees are fuzzy so when they fly they get charged with static electricity. When they land the pollen jumps onto them.” Without them plants would die—and things look grim moving up the food chain.
A portion of Henry’s proceeds go to the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, an organization doing research on CCD that is not supported by the pesticide companies. Regarding pesticide companies funding studies, Henry says, “As we say on the farm, that’s like having the fox guard the henhouse.”
Besides the very important botanical role the bees play, Henry is interested in honey from a culinary perspective. He started making up cake recipes for his cousins when he was six years old, and comes from a gourmet-leaning family: Dad is a “big BBQ guy” and mom bakes and decorates all sorts of cakes. Faced with more sweet honey than they knew what to do with, they started adding spices, and a company was born.
That company, Henry’s Humdingers, offers a line of raw honey infused with spices: There’s Grumpy Grandpa with red pepper and garlic, Phoebe’s Fireball with chipotle and cinnamon, and Naughty Nana with spicy pepper and ginger.
Henry and his parents brought the honey to natural food expos, and it really took off from there. Now in 31 states and poised to start shipping internationally, Henry’s business has enjoyed incredible growth.
Henry’s Humdingers has grown so much that Henry has had to hand off some of the practical aspects of running the business to trusted adults around him—he is just a sophomore in high school. “Sometimes I feel really guilty about being a kid and not being able to work with the bank or the lawyers. My grandpa told me, ‘Henry Ford didn't put every fender on every car,’ and that made me feel better.”
More research is needed to find the causes and cures for CCD—and the stakes are certainly high—but one 15-year-old from western Washington is doing all he can to secure the future of bees.