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Buzzing across the country, Jennifer Hinkel begins her role as American Honey Queen

Kaitlyn Riley

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Promoting some of the smallest, but hardest-working members of agriculture, Jennifer Hinkel of Franklin, Wis. will share her passion coast to coast as the 2021 American Honey Queen. 

Growing up on her family’s pumpkin and Christmas tree farm, Hinkel quickly learned pollinators, like honey bees, were vital. 

“That’s how we got started having honey bees, and we now have two hives,” she said. “That helped bridge me into becoming the national spokesperson for the honey industry and sharing the message of how important our honey bees are for pollination and the beautiful products we receive from them.”

Hinkel is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a certificate in entrepreneurship. She currently works for the Wisconsin State Fair and on her family’s farm. 

Prior to being selected as the American Honey Queen, Jennifer served as the 2020 Wisconsin Honey Queen.  In this role, she promoted the honey industry in schools, farmers’ markets, festivals, and media interviews.

“Even in Wisconsin, honey bees are pollinating many of our central fruits and vegetables like our cranberries, apples, and cucumbers,” Hinkel said. “Expanding across the nation, honey bees pollinate over 90 commercial crops. Of the food we eat, 1/3 is pollinated by insects, and 80 percent of that pollination is done by our honeybees.”

Because of COVID-19, the program is adapting, but still reaching students young and old through virtual and remote promotions. In the past week, Hinkel said she had the chance to do nearly 10 school presentations. 

“As our year moves forward, we will be doing promotions at different events,” she said. “We’ll attend beekeeper meetings, school presentations, and other activities to still get our educational messages out there about honey and the wide importance of pollination through all 50 states.”

Hinkel encouraged those interested in becoming beekeepers to reach out to their local extension agents to see the rules of housing honeybees and also learn what it takes to help a hive thrive. She also noted local beekeeping groups and organizations are willing to help guide new interests. 

People who want to help bees locally can also speak with area experts about planting diverse food sources for honeybees in the spring.

“Even in the wintertime, you can still help support our honeybees and our beekeepers from across the country by enjoying all of the different products we receive from the hive,” Hinkel said. 

Throughout her year, Hinkel will share tips for new ways to incorporate honey in day-to-day life such as adding the natural ingredient to favorite recipes or using it as a beauty product such as facial scrubs or hair moisturizers. 

Serving as the American Honey Queen is a full-time position. People can keep up with Hinkel’s adventures by following the American Honey Queen Program on Facebook as well as at buzzingacrossamerica.com

“It has a lot of great information for our younger, bee-excited students who want to learn more,” she said. “There are videos and educational materials, and even a section where you can ask questions and we can get back to you.”

Teachers can find lesson plans and other activities for students on that website and those who want to connect can send a message to the Facebook page. Otherwise, to schedule an appearance and presentation from American Honey Queen Jennifer Hinkel, people can contact American Honey Queen Program Chairperson Anna Kettlewell at 414.545.5514.

“We can talk on a wide variety of topics from the different uses of honey to why we have more than 300 varieties of honey in the United States, as well as the importance of pollination in whichever state they are from,” Hinkel said. 

As her year is just starting to take flight, Hinkel challenged people young and old to try as many of the 300 varieties as possible, and find new ways to enjoy the sweet gift from our pollinators. 

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.