Southall, a Franklin operation considered one of Tennessee’s most innovative and sustainable farms, will unveil its extensive grounds along with a luxury inn, spa and cottages in 2021. But its apiary and its 2.5 million bees are already being recognized as a key player in the larger agricultural and native biome.
The Good Food Foundation, known for its dedication to the elevation and continued reform of American food culture, has named Southall Farm’s wildflower honey a winner of the 2020 Good Food Awards in the honey category. Dedicated to the ethical production of clean, healthy food, the Good Food Awards showcase honeys most distinctive in clarity and depth of flavor, produced by beekeepers practicing good animal husbandry and social responsibility.
Head beekeeper Jay Williams manages the millions of bees that populate the apiary at Southall, utilizing the property’s native flora to produce the highest quality honey. Williams not only leads the apiary program, but also educates and inspires anyone who is open to listening about the power and importance of bees through his company, Williams Honey Farm.
Williams attributes the success of Southall’s wildflower honey to the diversity of native plantings featured throughout the 325 acres of flourishing land and the team’s dedication to cultivation and innovation. The greenhouses at Southall use native leafcutter bees to pollinate 365 days a year, and Williams is pioneering Bluetooth technology to monitor hive health on the property.
Below the apiary, nearly 2,000 apple trees live on a terraced hillside. Crop and fruit yields on the farm should increase exponentially each year as a result of the pollinators. Williams is currently in the process of implementing a comprehensive pollination plan on the property that will ultimately include approximately 4.5 million bees, including native species.
“We’re a little different in that we don’t harvest until July, so we capture the flavor profiles of a full season’s worth of nectars,” Williams said. "Our great spring weather last year delivered an incredible bloom — the black locust, tulip poplar and basswood all just exploded. The team at Southall has planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs, while maintaining plenty of wildflowers for the bees. It’s just a perfect scenario for making amazing honey.”
Southall’s award-winning Wildflower Honey offers a mild sweetness, followed by a fruity middle and a sweet finish, complements of the late basswood nectar. Williams notes that he could harvest every couple of weeks — each of the colonies makes 30 to 60 pounds of honey per season — to capture a well-defined single bloom’s flavor, but due to risks from storms and other factors that could potentially leave the bees starving for honey to feed on, a July harvest allows for them to wind down while building plenty of stock to survive the winter.
Williams’ strategic harvesting of the honey and careful attention to the wellbeing of his bees are what makes him such a spectacular beekeeper and the personification of the Good Food Foundation’s ethos.
The Good Food Foundation is committed to fostering land stewardship and cultivating social good. From a blind tasting of 2,035 entries, 324 outstanding food and drink crafters rose to the top, after evaluation to confirm they meet Good Food Awards standards regarding supply chain transparency and environmentally sound agricultural practices.
Of the 16 finalists in the honey category from states ranging from Hawaii to Massachusetts, Southall’s wildflower honey was the only finalist and winner from Tennessee.The highest scoring entries underwent a rigorous vetting process to verify they were not only exceptionally tasty but met the sustainability and social responsibility criteria required to become a Good Food Award winner.
Southall’s honey is available seasonally for purchase at The Farm Stand, a specially curated retail space located on-property at Southall in Franklin. Visionary chef and farmer Tyler Brown oversees a culinary and agricultural team dedicated to his lifelong dream of marrying agriculture, hospitality and cuisine into a unique and memorable experience at Southall.