by Shriya Swaminathan
It isn’t every day that we hear of a parent inspiring their child to embrace a vegan lifestyle. In the case of Jamie Woodrum, mama certainly knew best! After stumbling upon heartbreaking videos of animals used for food, Jamie’s mother knew that she could no longer be a knowing participant in these industries. With a reluctant Jamie in tow, the duo went vegan. Despite being a self-proclaimed animal lover who recognized the discrepancy of dog and cat rescue events serving meat from animals for their volunteers, Jamie acknowledges the difficulties and unhappiness she felt as a new “vegan.”
“I hadn’t made the same connection to the cause that my mother had. I wasn’t exposed to the obvious cruelty of these industries and was putting the inconvenience I experienced as a vegan over the treatment of billions of animals……it was mostly for health reasons at the time,” she recalls.
Soon after a failed reintroduction of dairy into her diet, she began to be more conscious about minimizing her intake of animal products. The education began, her “why” became clear, and so did her path to a sustainable vegan lifestyle. In September of 2018, she was fully committed to going vegan and has not looked back since. After graduating with a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Florida, Jamie was committed to pursuing a career that aligned with her calling to create a compassionate world for all. She joined the Critter Creek Sanctuary team as their Social Media Director and worked her way up to her current position as Vice President. She is now on a noble mission to protect a frequently overlooked critter—the humble bee. Her company Humble Honee seeks to be a one-stop-shop for delicious bee-free goodies, education, and compassionate activism.
“When you identify your ‘why’ and your heart is in it, you don’t see it as an inconvenience. Rather, you recognize that the frustration you feel with lack of options is not because you are vegan, but because businesses do not offer choices that align with what we know is ethically right” – Jamie Woodrum, Founder, and CEO of Humble Honee.
Compassion for all Critters
The ethics of consuming honey is still widely debated in plant-based spaces. But for Jamie, the case against honey was plain and simple. She could not condone large-scale operations where standard practices involved artificially inseminating the queen bee and clipping off her wings so she and her colony could not leave the facilities. Their natural pollination behaviors are drastically interfered with and the bees are fed sugar water with inferior nutrition. This lack of nourishment enhances their susceptibility to disease and subsequent colony collapse.
On the other hand, in small-scale, local farms—where bees are likely well cared for and not physically harmed—there persists an underlying notion permitting the commodification of bees and their labor for profits and consumption. All this to sweeten one’s beverage was not justifiable to Jamie.
Founding Humble Honee
Owing to her German heritage, honey on buttered toast was Jamie’s preferred meal, snack, and all treats in between! While she enjoyed the variety of phenomenal vegan butter available, there was no replacement for honey that nailed the flavor for her palette. It was up to her to fill the void of her comfort food. With that strong motivation fueling her next move, she founded Humble Honee with a vision of creating a bee-free upgrade to conventional honey while also educating customers about common misconceptions of bees and beekeeping. A vegan deli in her neighborhood became her laboratory where she tapped into her biochemistry knowledge to transform organic cane juice into luscious honey!
“I wanted to deliver a product that is equivalent to honey in terms of sugar content, shelf-stability, using easily available ingredients that I can scale up for production, and also stand out as a unique option,” she says.
There’s no stopping our steadfast champion for the bees as she sets to pursue an MBA at the University of Florida to expand her skills and knowledge. With entrepreneurs like her, mission-driven, ethical businesses are en route to being the market norm!
Humble Bee Project- a Mission to Save the Bees
Jamie is gearing up to launch a nationwide program with farmed animal rescue sanctuaries called the Humble Bee Project. Through this endeavor, she is building micro sanctuaries or “hotels” for bees to help revive local, endemic populations that are dwindling due to climate change and competition from honeybees—a species that was introduced to the Americas from Europe.
There is a significant gap in knowledge about the critical role native bees play in the health of our ecosystem, and their remarkable diversity within the species. By partnering with sanctuaries in the country, Jamie aspires to educate communities about bees.
When asked about feedback from her current bee hotel at Critter Creek, she enthusiastically offered—“It’s heartwarming to see the bees use and benefit from them! They lay their eggs, newborns hatch safely, and they thrive on the burgeoning native plant life! I’m excited about the prospects of working with more rescue sanctuaries that are interested in participating in this project.”
Stock Up on Your Next Favorite Pantry Staple
Folks can find Humble Honee at farmers’ markets in and around the Gainesville area, local cafes, and grocers. Do not fret if you don’t live near the source of the bee-free magic! Bottles of bee-free nectar are available for nationwide shipping (the United States only). Be it for personal consumption, wholesale service, or restaurant and food service, Humble Honee can cater to your needs.
Moving forward, customers can expect fun varieties of flavor-infused honees, more partnerships with businesses, increased presence on market shelves, and a foray into beauty businesses. The newest products to hit the online shop are all-natural, Humble Honee-infused, beeswax-free lip balms. Not only are the lip balms cruelty-free, the paper tubes are 100% compostable, making them environmentally friendly! Current scents include lavender and peppermint, but stay tuned for seasonal specials to satisfy all of your lip balm needs. Jamie hopes to disrupt the beauty industry with products that fulfill their purpose without harming animals.
DID YOU KNOW?
- A single bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in their entire lifetime. According to the math, it would take 864 bees to produce just a 12oz jar of honey. Imagine the scale needed to achieve stacking grocery shelves across the globe with bottles of honey!
For more buzzworthy facts, check out the Humble Honee website while stocking up on some treats.meat eggs plant-based industry